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The EU defense ministers discussed at their informal meeting on 28 and 29 August in Helsinki, the impact of modern technology (especially artificial intelligence) and climate change on defense and security (the Deputy Secretary General of the Rose Gottemoeller introduced the approach of NATO). Together with the foreign ministers, they focused on a scenario-based discussion with hybrid threats (Note: in Helsinki is the NATO-EU Joint Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats home).

Detail they discussed the concept of a coordinated European maritime presence. A mechanism for better coordination of the naval presence of the Member States in a particular area, which is seen as strategically important for the European Union as such.

Watch - Report - situational exchange

The idea is to better coordinate the naval forces of the EU Member States that are in a "zone of strategic interest" in the national order on the way or present. So promote information exchange to bring together monitoring results and thus to optimize the assessment. So to speak, make the most of the individually used or-present by the Member States Navy capabilities in a coordinated European way. In addition, should partner can be involved, particularly affected coastal countries or those that are exposed at sea threats that also affect European interests. As a very light, very flexible instrument thought it should not be a substitute but a complement to the traditional missions and operations of the European Union.

Although the concept is still at an early stage of development, the idea found broad appeal. It was decided to finalize the technical work on the concept. As a pilot case, they agreed on the Gulf of Guinea. "The reason why we imagined to start from the Gulf of Guinea from is that of course this requires personal responsibility and the willingness of the coastal countries to pursue us a coordinated approach and a common interest, such as piracy or criminal organizations, assaults or threats of sea routes, "the EU High representative for foreign Affairs and security policy Frederica Mogherini.

Persian Gulf / Strait of Hormuz: EU own course

So that the EU shows how it settles the American way. At the G7 summit last French President Emmanuel Macron had tried to movement in the conflict between the US and Iran. The EU is committed to a holistic approach. As a reflection of a larger political tension in the region with its various political aspects of the situation in the Persian Gulf and in the Strait of Hormuz will not let emphasize the issues of maritime security and freedom of navigation. This overall view of the Middle East has been the subject of a common EU foreign and defense ministers meeting on 29 August. In view of the now to be completed concept of coordinated maritime presence, the High Representative did not rule out "that this (note: it is meant a similar operation in the area of ​​the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz) in the future could be an option, but it is definitely too early to say that this could be an option for the European Union today, to put them in this area. "

In published on August 29 analysis "A ship will come?" The German Society for Foreign Policy (DGAP) quantify Carlo Masala, Christian Mölling and Torben contactor basic needs of an observation mission to five frigates (or destroyer) with on-board helicopters and three maritime patrol aircraft and one or two supply vessels or tankers. By to be considered and necessary rotation results in a considerable total number of available units, which would require at least 30 percent of the maritime capabilities of Europe - which, as the authors state that EU countries have sufficient naval forces to both an observer mission or to perform a protective mission (more extensive approach). Germany itself would ever be involved with at least one ship in the mission, as a consequence of the authors.

( "HMS Kent", "HMS Defender," "HMS Montrose" three frigates in or on the way to the sea area) underway - currently smaller in size than the meantime, the US led Operation Sentinel with the participation of Australia, Bahrain and the United Kingdom formerly announced by Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo Armada.

Maritime EU operations - Pilot case, the Gulf of Guinea

Such a "first pilot case" for the newly introduced concept in the Gulf of Guinea is not comparable to the EU maritime operations Atalanta and Sophia. EU NAVFOR operation Atalanta started the fight against piracy off Somalia of 2008. The operation Sophia, the EU mission to combat Seemigration in the Mediterranean was launched in 2015, the end of September due to expire and is at present limited to the monitoring of airborne agents and the training component. An expiring within the meaning of now featured mechanism meant using a coordinated approach in the waters of the Gulf of Guinea, where the participating units under the control authority of the Member States remained and would not run by the EU. It also did not come to a CSDP mission or operation. With the established mechanism Member States would possible to form in a particular area of ​​interest synergies by their mere presence and to coordinate their work in the region or with partners in the region.

The Gulf of Guinea is currently the world's most dangerous region for maritime piracy, especially kidnappings. Of the 75 sailors who were taken worldwide this year as hostages on board or kidnapped, 62 were captured in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of Nigeria, Guinea Togo, Benin and Cameroon - so the semi-annual report of the International Maritime Bureau's (IMB) of 8 July 2019. in view of the severity and persistence of piracy shipping companies have repeatedly asked Western governments to stand up for the safety of maritime transport in the region. The Spanish Navy began earlier this year, a patrol ship in the region and successfully prevented a kidnapping ever in April and in cooperation with a unit of the Navy of Equatorial Guinea in May this year.

Hans Uwe Mergener