EU ramps up its anti-piracy mission in Somalia | News | DW | 23.03.2012
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EU ramps up its anti-piracy mission in Somalia

The EU has pledged to intensify its campaign against pirates operating off the coast of Somalia. The development comes despite German reservations.

European Union's defense ministers agreed to extend Operation Atalanta, the EU's anti-piracy mission in the country, on Friday. At a meeting held in Brussels to discuss defense cooperation between Europe and the United States in light of impending budget cuts, ministers agreed that the campaign against piracy should be extended by two years.

The outcome is expected to be welcomed by the German Defense Ministry. German Deputy Defense Minister Christian Schmidt had made his support for extending the mission to the end of 2014 clear.

"The most important thing is that Atalanta is continued, because it is a successful mission," he told DW prior to the meeting in Brussels.

Operation Atalanta is generally considered a success. Nine warships, belonging to several EU countries, including Germany, accompany aid convoys to Somalia and patrol the Indian Ocean trade routes. The number of pirate attacks has subsequently decreased.

Defense ministers also agreed at the meeting that the renewed mission should be expanded to include air attacks, enabling EU warships and helicopters to target trucks, boats, fuel and supplies hoarded by pirates on the coast of Somalia. Germany had earlier expressed reservations about the plans, but a minister indicated on Thursday that Berlin would drop its objections.

"Military officers say they want to render harmless the ships on the beach that could be used. This was a convincing argument," the Defense Ministry's Schmidt said.

sej/ncy (dpa, AFP)