Finally flexing its muscles? Atalanta – The European Union’s naval military operation against piracy

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Series Details Vol.20, No. 3, September 2011, p385-404
Publication Date September 2011
ISSN 0966-2839
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What happens to EU (European Union) foreign policy when the EU has military force at its disposal? Will it then still be correct to talk of the EU as a ‘normative’ power, or will military capabilities make the EU more inclined to act as a traditional great power and instead promote its interests on the world scene? This article aims to contribute to an answer by studying why the EU launched its first naval operation, operation Atalanta. The analysis suggests that taking responsibility for the long-term protection of humanitarian aid to Somalia was a mobilizing argument behind Atalanta and that this has been followed up in practice.

Opposed to what one would expect of a traditional actor, the EU has not prioritised to protect European ships and has bound itself to global law when using force against pirates. Piracy is defined as criminal acts and pirates have been treated in accordance with their human rights.

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