OPAL - Observatory of Parliaments after the Lisbon Treaty

Case Study: EUNAVFOR Somalia (Operation Atalanta) PDF Print E-mail

Launched by a Council Joint Action on 10 November 2008 (2008/851/CFSP), Operation Atalantarepresents the EU’s first naval mission under the umbrella of CSDP. The mission was conceived in response to a series of United Nations resolutions made in early 2008 calling for military action to counter the spike in pirate activity in and around the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia. It also built on the experience of France, Denmark and the Netherlands, which had launched individual operations to protect World Food Programme (WFP) vessels en route to Somalia the year before. Moreover, Atalanta was intended to complement a similar NATO operation, launched in October 2008, as well as counter-piracy efforts by other states in the region including China, Japan, India and Russia.

The primary mandate of Atalanta is to protect WFP ships delivering food aid to Somalia. The operation is also empowered to protect commercial shipping in the area, though only on a case-by- case basis. The rules of engagement permit all means necessary, including the use of force, to ‘deter, prevent and repress’ acts of piracy and armed robbery in the area. The operation is also tasked with supporting the African Union’s military mission to Somalia (AMISOM). Atalanta’s mandate has been extended twice, first for one year (in December 2009) and then for two years in December 2010.

In March 2012, the Council agreed to extend Atalanta’s mandate for a further two years, and to expand its area of operations significantly to give EU forces the right to take action against pirates inland along the Somali coast and within Somalia’s internal waterways. At the same time the Council also launched an EU Operations Centre to coordinate the activities of Atalanta with another CSDP mission currently operating in the same theatre, EUTM (Training Mission) Somalia.

The mission’s operational headquarters (OHQ) is in Northwood, UK. The current Operation Commander is British Rear Admiral Duncan L. Potts, along with Deputy OpCdrs Rear Admiral Jorge Manso (Spain) and Rear Admiral Rainer Endres (Germany) (the latter succeeded a Frenchman, Rear Admiral Christian Canova, in January 2012). According to the Atalanta website, the mission currently comprises approximately 1500 personnel and ‘typically consists of 5 to 10 surface combat vessels, 1 to 2 auxiliary ships and 2 to 4 Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircrafts (MPRAs),’ but this may be expanded to cover its new, extended remit.


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