EU pledges $47m to fight piracy in Eastern, Southern Africa
… Tightens offshore oil regulation
The money comes through support for the support for the Programme to promote Regional Maritime Security (MASE), part of a wider package of development and political efforts by the EU in Somalia and the Horn of Africa region.
The EU has been present in the region already since 2008 to address the deteriorating situation and to harden ships against attack.
Thanks in part to these efforts piracy has decreased from 299 attacks in 2011 to 111 in 2012 (a reduction of over 62 per cent), while the number of hijackings dropped from 25 to 12.
“This new European support marks a step forward in the fight against piracy because it demonstrates the EU’s on-going commitment to combatting this complex problem. Strengthening security in the maritime routes is crucial for us because it will help boosting trade and growth in the region, which would enormously improve people’s lives,” Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said.
“This new funding is another sign of our commitment to stamping out piracy. It forms part of our comprehensive approach to assisting countries in the region, which means that we deal with the causes as well as the symptoms of piracy. We have made huge strides over last few years, and this money will help to build on the progress we have made by strengthening legal systems, improving financial controls and training young men to find alternatives to piracy,” High Representative Catherine Ashton said.
The new programme will help to develop the legal and judicial system of countries in the region, so that they are better equipped for the arrest and transfer of pirates.
Financial oversight systems will also be strengthened, by providing training for the authorities to prevent the movement of funds contributing to, or resulting from piracy.
Capacity-building (for example, sharing expertise and implementing training), and providing material logistic support on security, will help to improve surveillance and patrol of the coastline.
In Somalia, in particular, the programme will also carry out anti-piracy awareness campaigns in areas where piracy is prevalent; as well as providing vulnerable groups of young men with training so that they successfully pursue alternative vocations. In this way, Somali administration and communities will be helped to initiate home-grown solutions to these problems.
The MASE programme is part of a wider package of development and political efforts by the European Union in Somalia and the Horn of Africa region.
EU support to the region has enabled the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to reach its total strength of 17,731 uniformed personnel, and access to basic, primary and secondary education for more than 40,000 students since 2010.
Some EU programmes addressing piracy and armed robbery in the region include: the European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR Operation ATALANTA), and the implementation of Best Management Practices, or BMPs, (self-protection measures guidelines to reduce the threat of Somali piracy), the Instrument for Stability Critical Maritime Routes Programme projects for the Western Indian Ocean, in particular through information sharing and maritime law enforcement capacity building; as well as the EUCAP Nestor Mission on Regional Maritime Capacity Building.
This programme follows on from an initial preparatory MASE project, which was approved at the end of 2011, and is being financed from the 10th European Development Fund, under the Eastern and Southern Africa and Western Indian Ocean (ESA-IO) region. It involves countries belonging to four regional organisations (COMESA, the EAC, the IOC and IGAD).
Meanwhile, the EU hastightened safety rules for offshore oil and natural-gas exploration to curb the risk of a major accident after BP Plc’s 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest in US history.
The European Parliament approved legislation that forces oil and gas companies to submit special hazard reports and emergency-response plans before offshore operations can start.
The law also requires operators of offshore platforms to prove their ability to cover potential liabilities and extends the zone in which businesses would be liable for damage to 370 kilometres (230 miles) off the coast from the current 22 kilometres.
“The rules we are currently coming up with can be used as a template at international level,” said Ivo Belet, a Belgian member who steered the legislation through the 27-nation EU assembly Tuesday in Strasbourg, France.
EU governments have already signaled support for the law, making their final approval a formality in the coming weeks or months.
The tighter regulation marks the EU’s effort to improve safety and bolster the “polluter pays” principle in the energy industry following the Gulf of Mexico spill three years ago.
Eleven rig workers died and more than 4.1 million barrels of crude gushed into the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank while drilling BP’s Macondo well off the Louisiana coast.
The EU has almost 1,000 offshore oil installations, including 486 in the United Kingdom (UK), 181 in the Netherlands and 61 in Denmark, the European Commission, the bloc’s regulatory arm in Brussels, said when proposing the new rules in October 2011.
The average cost of offshore oil and gas accidents in the EU ranges from 205 million euros ($264 million) to 915 million euros a year, the commission said at the time.