Reflections on the EU Foreign Policy Objectives behind the ‘Integrated Approach’ in the Response to Piracy off Somalia

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Series Details Vol.5, 2009, p196-238
Publication Date 2009
ISSN 1845-5662
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The upsurge in pirate attacks on European vessels in the Gulf of Aden during 2008 brought the forgotten conflict of Somalia back onto the international political agenda. It soon became clear that no initiative off the Somali coast could be effective unless it was accompanied by efforts to relieve the root causes of piracy. This article examines first the essential features of the situation in Somalia, providing the necessary background to fully grasp not only the root causes of piracy, but also the risk to Western security posed by recent developments in this failed State. As regards the European Union, piracy-related incidents in the Gulf of Aden entail multi-faceted threats against European interests. A key question which arises is the extent to which the European response to Somali pirates truly follows a comprehensive, integrated approach.

Following an empirical analysis of development co-operation tools implemented in Somalia over recent years, as well as a thorough assessment of the legal mandate and several shortcomings faced by the first EU naval military operation, EU NAVFOR-Atalanta, we conclude that the EU response to piracy is stretched and inadequate both on land and off-shore. Therefore, the reality contradicts to a great extent political statements at the EU level. A possible explanation for this somewhat frustrating outcome is provided by a theoretical examination of the objectives (besides having an impact on the ground in Somalia) behind EU Foreign Policy. Objectives linked to the visibility of the EU as a global actor, as well as the Europeanisation of foreign and internal policies of Member States will be particularly emphasised.

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