Maritime security aims to ensure a free and peaceful use of the seas and is a prerequisite for safe, clean and secure oceans and seas for all types of activities. It is, hence, a clear priority for the European Union (EU) and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro* and Albania*, as well as the Republic of Moldova, align themselves with this statement.
The EU and its Member States recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all areas of life, with increasing implications for global peace and international stability, including maritime security. Supply chain disruption during the pandemic has shown the importance of maritime routes for the global economy. The EU will continue to work with partners to promote respect for basic principles of maritime passage, security and safety as well as protection of the oceans and to strengthen its role as a global maritime security provider and promote international law, in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).
The EU is committed to strengthening partnerships with international organisations, in particular the United Nations (UN) system, including the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and regional partners with a view to securing a free and peaceful use of the global maritime domain. In this regard, we welcome today’s Open Debate and thank India for bringing this item on this month’s agenda.
The European Union has elaborated and implemented – since almost a decade -- an ambitious policy framework through a dedicated EU Maritime Security Strategy. This strategy, which has been refined by the Council Conclusions on Maritime Security of June 2021, seeks to address traditional, non-traditional and emerging maritime security challenges and is founded on four complementary pillars. The strategy focuses on a strong coordination and cooperation at all levels and across all sectors (civil-civil, civil-military, military-military), within EU borders and beyond, and a dynamic international cooperation based on inclusive multilateralism to enhance a rules-based governance at sea under the UNCLOS, which establishes the overarching legal framework within which all activities in oceans and seas must be carried out.
With its 168 Parties, including the European Union, the UNCLOS is rightly recognised as the constitution of the oceans whose provisions generally reflect customary international law and are thus binding on all States. To this end, it is imperative that both the freedoms enjoyed under the Convention by all states, as well as the sovereignty and sovereign rights of coastal states over their maritime zones, including those generated by islands, are respected.
The EU reiterates its strong opposition to any unilateral actions that could undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order and urges all States to resolve disputes through peaceful means in accordance with international law, in particular UNCLOS, including its dispute settlement mechanisms. Deliberate and unjustified acts such as the recent incident involving the “Mercer Street” merchant ship, which was engaged in peaceful navigation and using a well-established shipping lane, constitutes a flagrant breach of international law and infringes on the rules enshrined in UNCLOS.
Highlights of the wide spectrum of actions the EU implements to promote maritime security at the UN and international level include maritime operations such as EUNAVFOR Operation IRINI implementing the arms embargo on Libya in accordance with UNSCR 2292; EUNAVFOR Operation ATALANTA in the Indian Ocean (which is the UN’s interlocutor for the WFP vessels escort program; has been successfully fighting piracy off the Somali coast since 2008, and whose mandate has recently been updated to tackle drugs trafficking and enforcing the UN’s arms embargo on Somalia); and numerous maritime situational awareness initiatives and capacity building programs for coastal partner states in the Gulf of Guinea, Red Sea, the Caribbean or East and South China sea. Operational cooperation and training at sea take place with external partners through joint anti-criminal activities conducted by Operation ATALANTA together with Japanese Self Defence Forces, Djiboutian Navy and the Indian Naval Forces in the vicinity of its area of operation.
In support of regional agreements and international Codes of Conduct, the EU and its Member States coordinate closely their capabilities and financial aid to enhance the maritime situational awareness of partner countries, and to improve regional cooperation and networking between Maritime law enforcement agencies.
In collaboration with UN offices and agencies such as UNODC, with whom new opportunities for closer collaboration are regularly explored, the EU funds and implements projects to secure Ports and Sea Lines of Trade and Communication around the global maritime domain. The EU and its Member States also continue to be engaged through actions combatting illicit trafficking activities – such as trafficking of human beings, drugs and firearms trafficking – and providing funding to projects supporting fight against criminal networks active in this area.
Let us add that climate change and environmental degradation are an existential threat to humanity and biodiversity, as well as to healthy oceans and seas, with increasing implications for global peace and security and international stability, including maritime security, and require an urgent collective response by the international community.
In a rapidly evolving world the EU will continue to support the UN as the indispensable forum for international cooperation and the cornerstone of the multilateral system including through more diverse and inclusive partnerships with all relevant stakeholders – including UN Member States, regional organisations, civil society, youth, international financial institutions, the private sector and academia - to support its modernisation and shape global responses to the challenges of the 21st century. The EU will remain a major driving force behind a truly inclusive, networked multilateralism and will provide global leadership, in view of a safer, more stable and prosperous world for all.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.