The EU Strategy and Action Plan for the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) takes an integrated approach linking security, governance and development challenges both offshore and onshore, along the 6,000km coastline from Senegal to Angola, including Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe. It is framed in support of the commitments taken in June 2013 during the Yaoundé Summit. This was the first time a joint-Summit between two African regions (West and Central Africa) had taken place to tackle the complex and wide ranging challenges of maritime insecurity and organised crime. It led to the adoption of a Maritime Code of Conduct, a Memorandum of Understanding on Maritime Safety and Security, and the decision to set up an Intra-Regional Coordination Centre (ICC), now in place in Yaoundé, Cameroon. This whole framework is often referred to as the "Yaoundé process". All Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) signed up to the "Yaoundé process" to address maritime criminality.
The EU GoG Strategy was adopted by EU foreign ministers in March 2014 and has 4 overall strategic objectives:
- Building a common understanding of the scale of the threat in the Gulf of Guinea and the need to address it among the countries in the region and the international community.
- Helping governments of the region build robust institutions, maritime administrations and multiagency capabilities to ensure maritime awareness, security and the rule of law along the coast.
- Supporting prosperous economies in this region in line with national and regional development strategies, to create employment and assist vulnerable communities to build resilience and resist criminal or violent activities.
- Strengthening cooperation between the countries of the region and the regional organisations to enable them to take the necessary actions to mitigate the threats at sea and on land.
A year later in March 2015, the EU-Gulf of Guinea Action Plan 2015-2020 was adopted. It identifies key priorities at the regional and national levels to contain the maritime security risks and address the underlying causes. The Action Plan is structured around the 4 strategic objectives of the GoG Strategy and sets out 67 actions to be carried out over five years, for implementation by the European External Action Service (EEAS), Commission, and EU Member States. In 2016, the first implementation report of the EU-Gulf of Guinea Action Plan 2015-2020 was published.
The threat and ongoing work
Threats are interlinked and contagious across the Gulf of Guinea region. Challenges include a constant, rather than diminishing, threat from piracy and armed robbery. In 2016 we saw 3 times more attacks reported than in 2015, and so far in 2017 the trend does not seem to be diminishing. The attacks are sometimes very violent, with seafarers (including Europeans) having lost their lives. There is also widespread organised crime in the forms of trafficking and smuggling (humans, drugs, arms), with related money-laundering; illegal dumping of waste at sea; and the depletion of fisheries by illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) - accounting for a loss of coastal states revenue of around $1.3 billion per year and severely compromising the food security and livelihoods of coastal communities.
Countries of the region rely heavily on maritime trade with the EU as their primary export market. On average there is a minimum of 35 EU flagged or owned vessels at any one time in GoG waters. Potential sources of instability and regional contagion are not diminishing with terrorism, kidnappings, and illegal migration succeeding through exploiting gaps in governance. Demographic changes, unemployment across the region (estimated at around 40% with over 60% among those under 30), energy finds, growing markets for business, and climate change, present both risks and opportunities for the region and the EU's interests.
Sophisticated and highly adaptable criminal networks operate across regions, erode state capacity, and may establish closer financial links with extremists. This increases the importance of taking a preventative approach. Improved maritime security and the resulting decrease in criminal activity will reduce economic migration and increase trade, stability and prosperity in the region. Input and commitment to our EU objectives across a wide stakeholder group is essential including with international partners like the US, Norway, Brazil and others; as well as with multilateral programmes under the UN, AU and NGOs and through international platforms like the G7++ Friends of Gulf of Guinea Group.
The Extraordinary African Union Lomé Summit, which took place in October 2016, is an important framework for developing the maritime domain as a driver of growth and for taking an African integrated approach in line with the African Union's AIM (Africa Integrated Maritime) 2050 strategy. The Lomé Charter, which is to become binding as soon as ratified by at least fifteen signatory parties, deals with issues related to maritime crime prevention, development of the Blue Economy, cooperation at sea and surveillance. We hope it will provide an impetus to focus on tangible results that can make a difference, and which build on the existing Yaoundé process agreements and structures.
The G7++ Friends of the Gulf of Guinea aims at fostering information sharing and coordination among regional actors in the Gulf of Guinea on issues related to maritime security and ocean governance. The European Union has been an active participant in.these meetings, held twice a year. The meetings enable G7 countries, African countries of the Gulf of Guinea, regional and international organisations, NGOs and private organisations, to discuss, share information and develop a common strategy to fight piracy, armed robbery at sea and illicit activities in the waters of the GoG. In 2016, the Lisbon Declaration was adopted. In June 2017, the G7++ meeting signed the Rome Declaration, reiterating its commitment to promoting maritime security.
On 19 June 2017, the Council adopted the Council Conclusions on Global Maritime Security, addressing maritime security priorities as well as further engagement of the EU for maritime security. In relation to the Gulf of Guinea, the Council noted with concern the persistent presence of piracy, armed robbery attacks and increased kidnapping for ransom events in the Gulf of Guinea. For this reason, it welcomed the strengthening of EU ongoing capacity-building efforts and the contribution of the G7++ Friends of the Gulf of Guinea Group.