Europe is preparing to enhance its naval presence in the north west Indian Ocean “to uphold freedom of navigation” in the world’s trade jugular.
he Indian Ocean project was outlined in a “concept note” by the EU foreign service, seen by EUobserver, and it would operate in a new MAI (maritime area of interest) covering a vast area from the Red Sea, to Madagascar, the Maldives, and the Strait of Hormuz.
According to the EU foreign service, Member states deploying assets in the new north west Indian Ocean MAI would be a good opportunity to “enhance the EU’s diplomatic influence.”
This could also “open new opportunities for strategic dialogue with key partners, such as India,” it added.
The EU’s Horn of Africa anti-piracy mission, Atalanta, was currently “contributing to securing the Bab El Mandeb Strait”, the EU foreign service noted, while nine countries, including eight EU ones and Norway, also have naval forces in the so-called Agenor mission around the Strait of Hormuz.
In the meantime, the EU’s flagship naval operation risks losing permission to pursue pirates in Somalia’s waters due to local politics.
More specifically, in December Somalia agreed to extend a UN mandate for the EU operation, called Atalanta, for three months.
However, its future intentions were “rather ambivalent” and “to be doubted”, according to an EU foreign-service paper, first reported by the EU Observer.
Namely, the paper notes that Somalia wants Atalanta to focus more on illegal fishing and toxic-waste dumping.
However, EU aims to continue the deployment of its member states’ warships in the Gulf of Guinea to address maritime piracy in the area.
After reviewing the Coordinated Maritime Presences (CMP) pilot program in which member states have been deploying warships to the region over the last two years, the EU now wants to maintain its presence, taking into consideration the threat of piracy and other illegal activities in the Gulf of Guinea.
Namely, the EU suggests a two-year extension of the CMP mandates beginning from January, also outlining deployments of Danish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish warships into the region.