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EU anti-pirate mission?

If approved by member states in November, the EU's first naval mission in the region where Somalia's northeastern tip meets the Indian Ocean will consist of five or six ships from different EU countries under the command of UK vice-admiral Philip Jones and with headquarters in Northwood, Great Britain, Mrs Claude-France Arnould from the EU council - the secretariat of EU top diplomat Javier Solana - told MEPs.

Russia is also in "military talks" to offer help, but with no political decision reached yet, captain Andres Breijo Claur, the head of the EU's "NAVCO" co-ordination cell, said. NAVCO was set up in order to co-ordinate the different existing naval forces in the waters off the Somali coast, including NATO and US led counter-terrorism task forces.

The maritime route is of strategic importance not only to food aid for African countries, but also because it leads to the Suez Canal through which an estimated 30 percent of the world's oil transits. NATO members at an informal meeting last week in Budapest agreed to despatch immediately a joint fleet of NATO ships to escort UN vessels delivering food in the area.

Under fire from several MEPs who said the EU is needlessly duplicating NATO efforts, the council's Mrs Arnould said NATO has not actually deployed any ships yet, with individual efforts from countries like Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands now and then escorting UN ships for the time being.

Calling the planned EU mission "military nonsense" and a "desperate attempt" by the French EU presidency "to run up the EU flag on another military operation during its time in office," British Conservative MEP Geoffrey van Orden said.

"It is a pity that the British government has agreed to an EU naval operation at the same time that NATO will be engaged in the same waters. Not only does this introduce unnecessary complexity and political confusion but it stretches our meagre naval assets even further. Bear in mind that in the last 10 years the destroyer and frigate fleet of the Royal Navy has been reduced from 35 to 25," he told...

Source : EUObserver