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Brussels, 21 January 2009

Maritime security: protecting maritime transport from piracy

Piracy and armed robbery of maritime transport is the subject of today's seminar organised by the European Commission to gather ideas on the means of preventing and dissuading acts of piracy and how we can protect ourselves and fight against this very real threat.

European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani stated "Acts of piracy and armed robberies pose a serious threat to the lives of seafarers, the security of the shipping industry and the safety and security of coastal states. I call on all the stakeholders to engage actively in fighting this phenomenon and seek lasting solutions to this scourge that is affecting the whole international community."

Joe Borg, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs, added: "The EU is committed to doing all it can to play its part in deterring and stamping out acts of piracy. We need an integrated civilian/military approach where all concerned work together. The European Commission contributes to this through improving maritime surveillance and by helping to set up a firm international legal framework for ensuring security at sea and to establish stable public order on land."

This seminar brings together leading figures from the European maritime sector, political representatives, high-level international officials, diplomats and military officials involved in and committed to combatting this phenomenon which increased considerably in 2008, notably along the Somali coast – a strategic passage for international shipping.

On 10 November 2008, the Council decided to launch the Atalanta military operation to deal with the increased acts of piracy along the Somali coast that indiscriminately target shipping and pleasure boats, humanitarian convoys from the World Food Programme (WFP) and fishing fleets. Led by the EU NAVFOR force, for a period of 12 months this operation will safeguard the WFP vessels bringing aid to Somalia's displaced populations, protect vulnerable ships navigating the Somali coast and dissuade, prevent and crack down on acts of piracy and armed robberies off this coast, by force if necessary.

The Commission's seminar aims to facilitate an exchange of experience and opinions on issues relating to acts of piracy and armed robbery in a geopolitical and economic context. Furthermore, the implementation of the international judicial framework enabling the international community as a whole to prevent and curb such acts is also one of the main subjects addressed at this meeting.

Community development aid instruments will be used, both geographically and on a more comprehensive level through the 'Instrument for Stability' (IfS), which provides for a programme on 'critical maritime routes' for 2009-2011 covering the Strait of Malacca and the Gulf of Aden in particular, to seek a more long-term resolution of the phenomenon of maritime piracy and armed robberies at sea.

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