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European Commission

Maria Damanaki

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Speech: Maritime piracy: continuing the fight

Maritime piracy: strengthening the EU response - Public Presentation of EESC's opinion

Brussels ,23 January 2013

Mr President, Honorable Members of the European Parliament, Dear Vice-President Kallas, Dear Ms Bredima,Dear Committee Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’d like to thank the European Economic and Social Committee for presenting its opinion on Piracy and hosting this timely roundtable, which gives the European maritime community the opportunity to address one of its major global threats.

Let’s be clear from the beginning: I think the opinion of this Committee is spot on: our fight against piracy must be relentless.

Nearly three hundred attacks on ships were reported by the International Maritime Organization over just the first ten months of 2012. Approximately the same number of seafarers are still being retained as hostages in East Africa. The usual hotspots in the world are East Africa, West Africa and the Far East.

It is true that, looking back at 2008, when piracy reared its ugly head off the coast of Somalia, we have taken big strides to combat this scourge:

The EU Naval Force Somalia, also known as Operation ATALANTA, has caught over a hundred 117 suspected pirates. And 21 states are now holding over a thousand pirates or piracy suspects.

Compared to 2011, in 2012 the number of pirate attacks in the area has dropped considerably, especially in Somalia. Piracy on the world’s seas has reached a five-year low, with 297 ships attacked in 2012, as against 439 in 20111.

It seems that the decision made by France and Spain in 2010 to employ armed guards aboard fishing vessels has helped to deter pirate attacks. This practice has in fact become widespread for ships crossing the danger zone. It has to be implemented cautiously, with good control. It is also extremely expensive for ship owners and affects productivity.

But even if worldwide figures were brought down, we should not and will not rest on our laurels, as this trend can easily be reversed.

For starters, we must keep working on the root causes. We must keep working towards political stability and prosecution capacity, as these are a prerequisite for further progress.

Admittedly, the legal and judiciary system of a country is a delicate matter; but there is no way around it: the capacity of States to prosecute and committ perpetrators needs to be strengthened. And prosecution should reach the true instigators and financiers, not just the small pawns, the “foot soldiers”. This requires strong political will from nations.

In parallel, we must deter and dismantle the financial networks that make it possible to launder the money stemming from pirate activities. We must break down the business model of piracy. The European Commission funds activities and works with international partners such as Interpol, the World Bank and the UN to track and disrupt those financial flows.

In parallel, the EU is active on many other fronts: external relations with countries and international organisations; development and cooperation aspects; maritime security and transport; legal affairs; judiciary, humanitarian and food aid; fisheries coordination and technical assistance. By way of example, the 10th European Development Fund has a total allocation for Somalia of 412 million euro. This work engages several departments across the European Commission, the European External Action Service and the Member States.

Naturally we are also working in the international context. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans must be carried out, contains clear provisions with respect to piracy. The threat posed by piracy and armed robbery to maritime activities has been recognised by the UN General Assembly and other relevant fora, such as the International Maritime Organization. In fact, this issue has become one of the most important topics tackled within the annual UNGA Resolution on Oceans and Law of the Sea. DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and the External Service contribute to ensuring that piracy issues are properly reflected in this Resolution.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We Europeans do depend so much on the sea! The EU's blue economy employs roughly 5.6 million people and accounts for a gross value added of almost 500 billion euro. 75% of our external trade is waterborne. Our fishing industry operates worldwide. Our shipping sector, but also our marine equipment industry and our maritime service sector are world class. Thanks to its outermost territories, the EU is present in all oceans of the world, which include the most important piracy hotspots.

Quite logically, the more we recognize the importance of the sea for our economy, our way of life and our global role, the more we need to take into account the factors that threaten the security and safety of our citizens and undermine our economy. We should not forget that pirate attacks also hamper global sustainable development.

The EU is striving to promote economic growth in the maritime world through integrated approaches. One of these approaches is what we call “Blue Growth’. Our “Blue Growth” initiative, launched last September, received unanimous support from the Member States, the European Parliament and the whole European maritime community.

This initiative shows the weight and value of the maritime economy for growth, jobs and economic recovery in the EU; it identifies several promising maritime sectors, such as maritime coastal and cruise tourism, ocean energy and sea-bed mining; and it seeks to remove barriers for business and promote skills and attractive jobs.

With the External Action Service, who has the leadership on piracy issues that are directly linked with the Common Security and Defence Policy, my department is now co-championing the drafting and implementation of a new EU Security Strategy for the global maritime domain.

The objective is to link the European Security Strategy with the EU Integrated Maritime Policy, and particularly with the Integrated Maritime Surveillance initiative.

The aim of integrated maritime surveillance is to generate real-time situational awareness of all activities at sea. It could be the first tangible building block of foreseen Security Strategy for the Global Maritime domain.

This can impact on safety and security, border control, fisheries control, marine environment observations, trade as well as general law enforcement and defence. It will interlink civilian and military user communities for better cross-sector and cross-border information sharing. It will facilitate sound decision making and improve maritime governance.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen,

On one hand we have the oceans, which offer huge opportunities for growth and development, as long as new sustainable activities emerge. On the other hand we have piracy, which stems from pockets of political instability and poverty around the world and risks to jeopardize our efforts; and which, more importantly, still causes the unacceptable loss of human lives.

The measures we have undertaken - comprehensive international approaches coupled with regional ownership - have been effective in at least curbing piracy. We must continue. We must find new ways, put in more means and multiply our efforts, hopefully with the help of all the actors represented here. But rest assured:

We will continue the battle!

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Source : International Maritime Bureau (IMB) global piracy report

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