1 min read

EU's Red Sea mission comes at a price — Somali pirates are back

Featured Image

The European Union (EU), echoing its global maritime security ambitions outlined in the October 2023 strategy, has initiated a new maritime security operation named Aspis to counter ongoing missile and drone attacks by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea and Western Indian Ocean. 

Despite significant costs to maritime trade and the potential for environmental disasters, Aspis aims to fortify air defense in conjunction with the US-led operation Prosperity Guardian. This signals the EU's commitment to protecting freedom of navigation.

However, this heightened focus on Houthi attacks has obscured another rising threat – the resurgence of Somali pirates. Exploiting the crisis, pirates have recently captured vessels, including the MV Lila Norfolk and the MV Ruen. While naval forces managed to recapture the former, the latter is currently held hostage with ransom negotiations ongoing. Earlier incidents involve hijackings of the Central Park and fishing vessels, potentially indicating a resurgence of piracy activity in the region.

This resurgence challenges the EU's successful efforts in curbing Somali piracy between 2008 and 2012. The counter-piracy structures established during that period have eroded, with regional capacity building insufficient to address the current crisis. EU's counter-piracy operation, EUNAVFOR Atalanta, operates with a single surface vessel, and the UN Security Council mandate for counter-piracy has expired.

To counter this threat, the EU must take immediate measures. The EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy should issue a statement, urging the release of captured vessels like MV Ruen and encouraging regional states to contribute. Military planners should ensure synergy between operations Atalanta and Aspis. The upcoming Safe Seas Africa project should incorporate these developments, including an emergency fund for piracy prosecutions and increased support for regional maritime security architecture (MASE) to monitor the situation off Somalia. The EU's global reputation and commitment to long-term stability in the region are at stake, necessitating urgent action.

Metis Insights: Background to the Iran - Israel Shadow War

Source: EU Observer