A Sight on European Defence

The German Institute for International and Security affairs has recently issued a very interesting study on piracy and maritime security. I hope you speak German as this document is available only in this language; if so, I strongly recommend you to read it.

After having read it thoroughly, I went to the website of the EU to have a look at the EU operations related to Somalia, the idea being to check how the following principle was implemented: since I have been in the military, I have been told that there is no pure military solution to conflicts or operations. Everybody, teachers, diplomats, teaching diplomats, NGO members, teaching NGO members, everybody says that the only solution to a problem is a global solution, encompassing all the ins and outs of the conflict. Therefore the EU promotes and is making use of the comprehensive approach in its operations, at least is claiming to.

Well, as comprehensive approach is a method to tackle a problem by all its aspects, I looked at the different documents released by the EU, to see how synergy was created between Atalanta, the naval operation off the coast of Somalia, EU Somalia training mission, which is land based and all the civilian side of EU support to this country, in fact currently divided in three states, of which two are de facto independent (Puntland and Somaliland) from the internationally recognized Somalia.

Firstly some facts:

The mission Atalanta takes place off the coast of Somalia and neighbouring countries. All the military assets can be seen on N. Gros-Verheyde blog (here). About 1,800 men and 20 ships and aircraft take part to this operation. Its missions are to escort the World Food Program vessels supplying Somalia, escort the merchant vessels sailing along the African shore in the area and fight against local piracy. The mission has started end of 2008.

The EU Somalia training mission is some 140 soldiers strong. Based in Uganda, its main task consists in the training of Somalia security forces. The mission has started in 2010. Its end is planned for 2011.

From far, the main effort of the EU in Somalia is on the civilian side. There, ‘’the EU will give priority to activities that promote peace and recovery for the Somali people”. (EU fact sheets). The scope of the EU aid is rather broad and more than € 800 millions have been spent since 2003 in various actions like security, development and humanitarian aid, both being mainly outsourced to NGOs, African Union or the UN.

Then some analysis:

In order to reach some efficiency, a comprehensive approach should be conceived in such a way that the body or agency in charge of the operation role is to coordinate, set the pace, shift the effort when deemed necessary and follow up the lines of operations. However, when all the actions are outsourced to a large number of organizations, of which some are not known as models of transparency, benchmarking seems rather difficult.

As well, nobody can pretend that since 2003, the EU aid to Somalia has improved the situation there: the efficiency was such that in 2008, the Member States decided to launch a naval operation, Atalanta, mainly aimed at protecting their merchant vessels and the fishermen. The dramatically increasing piracy had led to an increase of the insurance primes and security of Member States lines of communication were threatened.

Although the current EU action for Somalia covers both military and civilian sides, we cannot speak yet of a comprehensive approach. Effectively, in none of the EU documents available in the fact sheets, the synergy between both sides is developed and explained. Furthermore, as long as the EU funds will be outsourced to organizations careful of their legitimate independence, how can we make sure that the military operations are not a wasted effort?

Possibly my comments are just an impression. However what I like in the military organizations is that you can rather easily identify who is in charge of and the task repartition between the different branches. Looking at all the different EU bodies or agencies in charge of Somalia issues, the first impression of the outsider I am is that this is all but simple. I had and still have some difficulties to understand who is the overall coordinator, or the great architect, if you prefer.

For those reasons, a further analysis of the conditions of comprehensive approach seems to me a matter of interest.

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