|6 language versions available in PDF format|
As piracy off Africa has become a global security issue, the need for the European Union (EU) to protect its interests at sea through a maritime dimension to its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) has also been recognised.
Importance of the sea for the EU
With a coastline of 70 000 kilometres and with 90% of its external trade transported by sea, the EU has vital maritime interests: security of global maritime flows, safety of maritime transport, fish, energy resources etc. Protecting the world’s maritime routes and lines of communication is an essential dimension of the EU’s security. The EU requires to develop an active approach to the varied challenges and threats to maritime security (terrorism, transnational crime, piracy, environmental degradation, depletion of marine resources etc.) in its neighbourhood and other zones.
EU’s role in maritime security
Although no EU maritime strategy as such exists, a maritime dimension has developed across EU policy areas and through EU agencies, e.g. fisheries, marine pollution, maritime transport, maritime surveillance, and energy security, as well as maritime power projection through CSDP. The Integrated Maritime Policy for the EU (2007) aimed at uniting the various approaches, but its underlying economic rationale left little room for security issues. Equally, neither the European Security Strategy (2003) nor its Implementation Report (2008) directly addresses maritime security.
Despite some initiatives taken under the CSDP, there are still calls for a maritime dimension to CSDP strategy. In particular, the EU should actively seek to safeguard key trade routes (“Suez to Shanghai”, the Arctic) and prevent state or non-state actors from disrupting them.
The surge in African piracy prompted the launch in 2008 of the EU’s first CSDP naval operation, EUNAVFOR-Atalanta, with the objective of combating piracy off the coast of Somalia and protecting UN food aid deliveries to the country. Two further CSDP missions (EUCAP Nestor – improving regional maritime capacities – and the EU Training Mission (EUTM) Somalia – to train Somali security forces) – are part of a broader EU approach, based on the EU Strategic Framework for the Horn of Africa (2011). Although Operation Atalanta enhanced the credibility of EU CSDP, the Somali case proves that a combination of threats (weak governance, piracy, illegal fishing, under-development) requires complex policies and tools.
Towards a Maritime Security Strategy
In this context, academics have called for an EU Maritime Security Strategy (EUMSS). This should take a holistic approach, integrating civil and military aspects, and state the EU’s maritime strategic objectives and the means to implement them, while avoiding duplication of capabilities at EU level. Cooperation with other maritime forces (NATO, the United States, China, Russia etc.) also needs to be tackled.
In 2010, EU Foreign Ministers launched the process of preparing “options for the possible elaboration of a security strategy for the global maritime domain.” The Commission and the European External Action Service are expected to present a formal proposal for the December 2013 European Council meeting, dedicated to CSDP matters.
The EP has adopted several resolutions addressing maritime security. The latest report on the Maritime dimension of the Common Security and Defence Policy (rapporteur Ana Gomes, S&D, Portugal) states the importance of global maritime flows and calls for an EUMSS combining approaches to maritime safety and maritime security, and considering the “nexus between human security, state governance and human development”. It also stresses the need for improved exchange of information and intelligence on maritime risks and threats between EU Member States, and proposes the creation of EU coastguards.