21/11/2008

Piracy at the gates of the Mediterranean

The capture of the Sirius Star last week, in the Gulf of Aden, has once again demonstrated the total lack of control of the area towards Somali pirates, who are more and more trained, informed and organized. The attack of the super-tanker 800 km away from the Kenyan coast, despite the French, British, Russian and American military deployments, is proof.
Despite the exceptional nature of the attack – never ship this size had been attacked- this event is not a surprise and fits in perfectly with the current upsurge of piracy, particularly in the Gulf of Aden, dependent on the prevailing instability in Somalia since 1991 and key area of oil supply to the West.

In accordance with resolution 1816 passed at the UN in June 2008, the European Union has launched a mission, called Atalanta, escorting vessels considered « vulnerable » as well as the World Food Program’s ships. First naval operation of the ESDP, pride of the French presidency of the EU in the defence field, proof that “Europe exists” according to Bernard Kouchner, Atalanta is still a fragile mission: if it had been in place before the capture of the Sirius Star, the super-tanker would not have got any protection, since it is not considered « vulnerable ».

The special conference held on Thursday in Cairo and bringing together countries bordering the Red Sea (EgyptJordanSaudi ArabiaSudan and Yemen) witnessed the regional players directly affected by the problem seeking a common strategy to fight against piracy. Indeed, it is urgent: some boats already decided to choose other sea routes to transport their cargo, which is a disaster for Egypt since the passage of ships through the Suez Canal is the primary source of income.

To prevent a possible « contamination » of the maritime security of the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and protect the oil supply to Europe, cooperation between Europe and the states bordering the Red Sea and the Mediterranean should be established.
Indeed, how can a « motorway of the sea » and the strengthening of trade ties in the Mediterranean be promoted by the Union for the Mediterranean if security is lacking at the main gate on the Mediterranean?
Isn’t it high time for the “Euro-Mediterranean” to join forces today to defend a widely shared interest: the safe passage between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea by tankers and other ships?

Nevertheless, any effort, concerted or not, international or regional would be futile without the stabilization of Somalia, which can not wait any longer.

Luce RICARD