Germany to back NATO anti-piracy mission in EU camouflage

20th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

In a new demonstration of how complex NATO operations can become, two German ships in the alliance's standing naval maritime group will have to conduct anti-piracy duties under the mandate of the EU.

Krakow -- Germany is to back a NATO anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia soon but will switch flags so the move can go ahead without new parliamentary approval, its defense minister said Friday.

In a new demonstration of how complex NATO operations can become, two German ships in the alliance's standing naval maritime group will have to conduct anti-piracy duties under the mandate of the European Union.

"Our ships are going to participate under the European mandate Atalanta," German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung told reporters, referring to the EU's mission in the Gulf of Aden.

NATO's 26 member nations must make decisions unanimously.

"Rebadging" their forces under the command of blocs like the EU or the United Nations is now common practice to avoid costly and time-consuming political restraints on their use.

Even capturing and trying pirates is a legal nightmare, with some nations able to seize suspects but not bring them to justice, and no one willing to hand them over to a country where they might face the death penalty.

At informal defense ministers' talks in Poland Thursday, NATO announced that it planned to carry out more anti-piracy duties in one of the world's busiest shipping areas off the coast of Somalia in the spring.

A NATO diplomat said the ships would come from the Canada, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United States, with a frigate and a refuelling vessel supplied by Germany.

The maritime group will conduct up to two weeks of anti-piracy work as it heads toward South East Asia and Australia on a series of port visits starting in mid-March and running through to July, officials said.

During their talks, the defense ministers looked at operational details like "which ports do we do, how long do we do it and they might cancel one or two (visits),” a NATO official said. “For political reasons, they can't cancel some."

A stop over in Karachi is considered a must.

Pirates attacked over 130 merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden last year, more than double the 2007 total, according to the International Maritime Bureau, which tracks piracy and shipping security issues.

More than 150 suspected pirates were arrested by naval patrols in 2008.

In late October, NATO launched its first ever naval mission against pirates, patrolling the Gulf of Aden and dispatching two ships to protect UN food aid convoys to strife-torn Somalia.

AFP/Expatica

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