More than 150 representatives of law enforcement, justice, the financial intelligence sector and the private sector from 20 piracy affected countries met earlier this month to jointly express continued support for suppressing all forms of maritime crime.
The high level gathering was hosted by the EU, under the auspices of its Critical Maritime Routes Programme, and Interpol in Brussels.
The meeting identified priorities for the EU and international bodies to better promote maritime governance and security and enforce links between law enforcement and financial intelligence services.
Organised crime at sea manifests itself in a variety of ways: piracy and armed robbery at sea, a number of cross-border and organised crimes including seaborne trafficking of arms, narcotics and people, as well as illegal and unregulated fishing. These crimes cost the global economy billions of euros, but of greater concern than the financial cost is the threat maritime crime poses to human security. The growth in criminal groups, enriched by the proceeds of maritime crime, has caused an increase in violence and insecurity in a host of littoral nations.
While piracy may have decreased with the decline of Somali piracy, it remains a key global challenge. The EU remains in the forefront of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) efforts this year as the chair of this international forum.
Maciej Popowski, Deputy Executive Secretary General of the European External Action Service said in his opening remarks “while the EU is leading a prominent international naval effort to counter Somali piracy, Operation Atalanta, a long term and sustainable response to the challenges of maritime crime will require hitting criminals where it hurts the most: their profits”.
The EU and its member states have a critical role to play as this is not just a security challenge, but an essential part of the EU’s development engagement with key regions. Marcus Cornaro, Deputy Director-General of the European Commission’s EuropeAid, noted “we need to assist partner countries addressing the systemic economic and social factors that cause maritime crime, not only in the Horn of Africa, but also in other regions at risk such as the Gulf of Guinea and in South-East Asia”.
This must be a co-ordinated effort, with the EU and international community working in support of national and regional bodies in the affected regions. Interpol President, Mireille Ballestrazzi, emphasised “to participate effectively in the fight against maritime crime, we must anticipate the threats and respond in a co-ordinated manner”.
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