The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), signed by 157 countries 25 years ago, was the first form of international law for the oceans governance, acting as a cornerstone to launch the basis of UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and serving as EU’s framework for policymaking. The adoption of the Integrated Maritime Policy by the EU aligns internal policies under its umbrella and serves as basis for external cooperation.
In 2016, the EU has adopted an agenda for the future of oceans to improve international governance of the seas and promote blue economy. This was encompassed by a strategy to boost growth, €350 million investment in research and, recently, a 23 steps commitment to improve the conditions at sea.
Presented during 2018’s Our Oceans conference in Bali, these new initiatives, from Research to seafloor mapping and funding to make EU’s blue economy more sustainable, are a symbol of EU’s determination to make the oceans cleaner. One of the commitments entails close work with the UN Environment Program and cooperating with South-East Asia on fighting marine litter.
In the field of maritime security, EU adopted the Maritime Security Strategy (EUMSS) and Action Plan in 2014.
In the aftermath of the UN Security Council Resolution of 2008, the deployment of EU’s first naval operation, EU Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) Atalanta, became a valuable asset in addressing these threats. Atalanta has contributed to the decrease in the number of pirate attacks and the capacity building of local forces. Since October 2016, no hostages or vessels have been held and from 176 attacks in 2011 and only 4 four failed attacks were recorded in 2018.
In a bid to achieve a more holistic approach to maritime security threats, the EU has recently revised the EUMSS’s Action Plan, “promoting international cooperation, maritime multilateralism and the rule of law at sea, in line with the strategic priorities identified in the EU Global Strategy”, according to the High Representative / Vice President Federica Mogherini.
By approaching maritime security in a broader spectrum encompassing cyber, hybrid, nuclear threats; by respecting regional ownership and joint actions in security responses; by promoting a stronger collaboration across borders and sectors and increasing awareness on global maritime security, the revised Action Plan aims at building resilience and enhancing cooperation to deliver tailored regional responses.
This is in line with EU’s action in the face of the escalation on piracy attacks at the Gulf of Guinea.
Under the umbrella of the “Strategy for the Gulf of Guinea” and Action Plan, adopted in 2014, the EU has been supporting regional authorities from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) as well as the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) to implement the Yaoundé Process, a regional maritime architecture that builds on information sharing; reporting systems; and capacity building.