launched Monday a security operation off the coast of Somalia — its first-ever naval mission — to combat growing acts of piracy and help protect aid ships.
Dubbed Operation Atalanta, the mission, endorsed by the bloc’s defence ministers at talks in Brussels, will be led by Britain, with its headquarters in Northwood, near London.
“Britain is a great military power, it’s a nice symbol that this operation be commanded by a British officer and from a British headquarters,” French Defence Minister Herve Morin said, after chairing the meeting.
“It is a great symbol of the evolution in European defence, and I would say, of its coming of age,” he told reporters.
The so-called EUNAVOR operation will be made up of at least seven ships, three of them frigates and one a supply vessel. It will also be backed by surveillance aircraft.
It will include contributions from eight to 10 countries including France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Spain, with Portugal, Sweden and non-EU nation Norway also likely to take part.
“Our participation in the Somalia project is an important one,”told reporters.
“This is obviously a very challenging project but one that European leaders are approaching with real humility as well as determination,” he said.
The EU initiative was taken after Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed urged Somalis and the international community to combat rising piracy off the lawless nation’s waters.
Last month, a maritime watchdog saidwere now responsible for nearly a third of all reported attacks on ships, often using violence and taking hostages.