The Security and Defence Agenda organised an evening debate on ‘Lessons learnt from the Gulf of Aden operations’, with speakers Robert G. Bell (US Mission to NATO), Rear Admiral Giorgio Lazio (NATO Maritime Command), Anja Shortland (King’s College London) and Koen Vervaeke (EEAS). The SDA’s Giles Merritt moderated the discussion which revolved around the continued need to tackle piracy in the Gulf of Aden, the efforts already undertaken by the international community and the reasons why piracy has not been completely erased.
International naval operations by EU, NATO and the Combined Task Force 151 in the Gulf of Aden, in combination with the efforts from the navies of countries, such as Russia, China, India, Japan and Saudi Arabia, have been successful in reducing the number of piracy incidents from hundreds to handful. This reduction in numbers has made the discussion about the renewal of NATO and EU operations mandates relevant. These organisations must now decide whether it is time to pack up and go home, or if the expense of staying can be continued to be justified. It can be argued that the operations, in addition to deterring piracy, are a valuable training method for the navies as well as an unique opportunity to cooperate with countries such as China and Russia. NATO decided that their presence continues to be relevant and renewed Operation Ocean Shield’s mandate in early May for further two years. The mandate for the EU NAVFOR Atalanta is also up for renewal this year and the EU has to decide if the benefits from its operation outweigh the costs.
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