World News

EU envisages year-long anti-piracy operation

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - An EU air and sea operation against pirates off Somalia is expected to last a year from its planned December launch and will aim to coordinate its role with other international forces, EU officials said on Tuesday.

Somali pirates have been causing havoc in one of the world’s busiest shipping areas connecting Europe to Asia and the Middle East, taking millions of dollars in ransoms, raising insurance costs, and threatening humanitarian supplies.

Ten EU nations have said they will contribute to the EU operation, which is expected to involve four to six ships at any given time as well as several maritime surveillance aircraft.

“It will involve five to 10 assets (planes and ships), naval and aerial, four to six ships,” one of the officials told a briefing, speaking on condition of anonymity, adding that the operation was planned to last for a year.

The EU force is expected to get the final green light from the 27 EU states at a meeting of foreign ministers next month and to be officially launched in December. It will have its headquarters in Northwood in Britain and British Vice Admiral Philip Jones has been proposed as its commander.

The EU officials said the force could include European ships that have been taking part in a NATO anti-piracy operation already underway off the Somali coast.

It would aim to coordinate its work with third-country warships, including from Russia, Asia and the Gulf states to avoid duplication of efforts, the officials said.

Several EU ships are already taking part in the NATO operation. Two French frigates, a Dutch warship and a Spanish aircraft have also been involved in anti-piracy duties.

NATO said on Monday alliance ships had begun anti-piracy operations off Somalia.

Some European politicians have criticized the push by the French EU presidency to deploy the EU force, saying it would draw on the same ships as NATO and was politically motivated to press a French drive for a stronger EU military role.

Editing by Myra MacDonald