Delegation of the European Union to Morocco

EU 2014 Chairmanship Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia

14/05/2014 - 10:42

Chairing the Contact Group on Piracy is a new undertaking for the European Union.

Maciej Popowski - Deputy Secretary General EEAS

Dear colleagues,

Chairing the Contact Group on Piracy is a new undertaking for the European Union. It is both an honour and a responsibility. The European Union will approach it with enthusiasm and determination to see that piracy off the Coast of Somalia is pushed further back and that structural and sustainable answers are provided for this scourge that has cost so much to the region and to the entire world.

It will be my privilege to work with all of you towards our common goal and I very much look forward to closely cooperate in the days and months to come.

The EU Presidency is keen to learn your views, ideas and suggestions. You are invited and encouraged to be in close contact with the EU Support Team for the CGPCS Presidency for this matter.

With personal best regards

Maciej Popowski
Deputy Secretary General EEAS

The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia was created on 14 January 2009 pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1851. This voluntary ad hoc international forum brings together over 80 countries, organizations, and industry groups with a shared interest in combating piracy. Chaired in 2013 by the United States, the Contact Group coordinates political, military, and non-governmental efforts to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia, ensure that pirates are brought to justice, and support regional states to develop sustainable maritime security capabilities. The European Union assumed the Chairmanship on 1st January 2014.

Through its five thematic working groups, the Contact Group draws on a wide range of international expertise and adopts a problem-solving approach to piracy, working closely with Somali officials from the central government and regional administrations and officials in Indian Ocean States. Working Group 1, chaired by the United Kingdom, focuses on operational naval coordination, information sharing, and capacity building; Working Group 2, chaired by Denmark, addresses legal and judicial issues; Working Group 3, chaired by the Republic of Korea, works closely with the shipping industry to enhance awareness and build capabilities among seafarers transiting the region; Working Group 4, chaired by Egypt, aims at raising public awareness of the dangers of piracy; and Working Group 5, chaired by Italy, focuses on disrupting the pirate criminal enterprise ashore, including the illicit financial flows associated with maritime piracy. This unique international partnership is contributing to a significant decline in piracy off the Horn of Africa. The last successful pirate attack on a merchant vessel in the region occurred on 10 May 2012.

The CGPCS has led to a wide array of projects, programmes and initiatives being taken to fight Somali piracy. Among the significant results that have come out of the Contact Group, or are related to the work of the Contact Group, are the following.

  • Operational coordination of naval operations. The Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) mechanism has been created to coordinate the actions of CMF, NATO's Ocean Shield and EUNAVFOR Atalanta. Later on the independent deployers joined this mechanism. Related to the work of SHADE are the establishment of the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) and a coordinated convoying scheme that includes the movements of the independent deployers.
  • A functioning judicial and legal chain in the IO region to end the impunity of piracy. The 'catch and release policy of the early days has been replaced by a catch and prosecute strategy. This however entails a sophisticated web of actions, transfer and repatriation agreements. Naval ships can apprehend piracy suspects at sea, these are then transferred to e.g. Seychelles on the basis of a Transfer agreement the EU has concluded with Seychelles. The Seychelles judicial authorities will then provide a fair trial to the piracy suspect and in case of a conviction incarcerate the convicted pirate. Then the convicted pirate will be repatriated to Somalia.
  • A coordinated approach to (maritime) capacity building. WG1 of the CGPCS has placed a premium on a coordinated approach to capacity building and has brought donors and recipients together.
  • Best Management Practices. To remedy the vulnerability of shipping, industry reps and naval experts got together to come up with measures to 'harden' the self-protection of shipping and to suggest measures to prevent pirate attacks from happening. These suggestions have been consolidated into the 'Best Management Practices'.

On 1 January 2014 the EU assumed the Presidency of the CGPCS for a period of one year. Mr. Maciej Popowski, Deputy Secretary General of the EU's External Action Service has been appointed as the EU Chair of the Contact Group. The Chairmanship of the Contact Group allows the EU to assume international responsibility commensurate with its involvement in the Horn of Africa and Somalia in particular. The fight against piracy is entering its endgame and Somalia is in a crucial period on its way to political and social stability and economic recovery. The EU is, with over 1,2 billion euro spent on development and capacity building, not only the biggest donor in Somalia, it also executes concurrently three CSDP missions in the Horn of Africa region/Western Indian Ocean: EUNAVFOR Atalanta, the regional maritime capacity building mission EUCAP Nestor and the EU Training Mission Somalia. The Chairmanship is a joint endeavour of both Commission and the External Action Service.

The specific responsibility of the Chair of the Contact Group for the near future is to work with all stakeholders within the region and the international community to allow them to hold on and to keep focus on Somali based piracy in order to bring the end game to a successful conclusion.

During its tenure as Chair of the Contact Group the EU will ask continuous attention for the following priorities:

  • 'Zero/zero', zero ships and zero seafarers in the hands of Somali pirates (see 'Winning the end game in Somali Piracy';
  • Document the CGPCS Lessons Learned. The CGPCS has been instrumental in the fight against Somali based piracy. It is important that the lessons and experiences of the Contact Group are properly documented and conserved for future reference or for application in other parts of the world. An academic consortium consisting of the EU Institute for Security Studies, Cardiff University, the International Peace Institute and the NGO Oceans Beyond Piracy will document the CGPCS lessons learned and present these in the form of publications and websites in the second half of 2014;
  • Refine and optimize the structures and working procedures of the CGPCS to make the Contact Group as relevant, efficient and cost-effective as possible and increase the regional involvement in the Contact Group

In order to proceed with the objective to refine and optimize the structures of the Contact group, the EU presidency organized a CGPCS Strategy Meeting of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coasts of Somalia (CGPCS) on 28 January in Paris. This was the first main event under the 2014 EU Presidency of the CGPCS. Consensus was reached on the new, refined, organisational structure streamlining and refocusing the CGPCS working groups. The working groups, three in total, are going to focus on:

  • capacity building in Somalia and in the region;
  • maritime counter-piracy and mitigation operations;
  • disrupting pirate networks ashore.

Major strides forward were made in terms of regionalisation introducing for the first time for the CGPCS the concept of co-chairs. Candidatures to co-chair working groups were put forward from the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), United Arab Emirates, the Republic of Seychelles and Japan (only a few days ago after the strategic meeting). These are extremely good results for which the EU presidency has been widely congratulated. These results will be formally approved at the first 2014 plenary meeting, scheduled in New York on 14 May, or even before through a silence procedure.