Piracy in the Western Indian Ocean has been a growing threat to security, international shipping and development since the mid-2000s. While bearing all aspects of organized crime, piracy is a complex issue that can only be overcome by combining political and diplomatic efforts with military and legal action, development assistance and strong international coordination. With all these tools at its disposal, the European Union (EU) is in a unique position to contribute to international efforts, and addresses that challenge through a “comprehensive approach” tackling both current symptoms and root causes of the problem.
The EU’s engagement in the Horn of Africa is defined by the region’s geo-strategic importance, the longstanding EU engagement with countries of the region, the EU's desire to help lift the people from poverty into self-sustaining economic growth, and the need for the EU to protect its own citizens from security threats. The EU Council of Ministers adopted on November 14, 2011 a "Strategic Framework for the Horn of Africa" to guide the EU's multi-sectoral engagement in the region. This document sets out the way in which the EU will pursue its strategic approach, working in partnership with the region itself, in particular the African Union, and key international partners. It defines five priorities for EU action: building robust and accountable political structures; contributing to conflict resolution and prevention; mitigating security threats emanating from the region; promoting economic growth, and supporting regional economic cooperation.
To coordinate these efforts, since January 1, 2012, the EU has a Special Representative to the Horn of Africa, Alexander Rondos. He was tasked to initially focus on Somalia and the regional dimensions of the conflict there, as well as on piracy, which has its root causes in the instability of Somalia. More recently, the EU co-organized with the Somali Federal Government the Conference on a "New Deal for Somalia" in Brussels on September 16, 2013, where a strategic framework and broader objectives were set out for the country.
The EU is also active in international initiatives within the United Nations (UN) framework as set out by its Security Council Resolutions on piracy off Somalia. The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) is an international cooperation mechanism created in 2009, which serves as a point of contact among affected and contributing states, international organizations, and industries concerned, on all relevant aspects of combating piracy. The EU and its Member States participate actively in the plenary sessions and all working groups: military coordination and regional capability development; legal aspects; self protection measures; public outreach policy; and investigations/financial flows. The Djibouti Code of Conduct, signed in 2009 under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and the Regional Strategy and Action Plan of the Eastern and Southern Africa–Indian Ocean Region endorsed in October 2010 in Mauritius, ensure regional ownership of the EU’s actions.