EU naval forces have made a significant contribution to fighting piracy off Somalia, but progress towards stabilising the country and countering Islamist forces has been more limited.
The EU has a complex range of priorities in its policy towards Somalia, including reversing the rise of piracy in the Indian Ocean and supporting the extremely weak Somali government against its Islamist opponents, al-Shabaab. The EU pursues these goals through a naval operation off the Somali coast, Atalanta, which has an €8.4 million budget, plus a related NATO naval operation; an EU training mission working with Somali military personnel in Uganda; and financial support to an African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) based in Mogadishu.
There was some progress in thwarting pirate activities in the Indian Ocean, but there were a similar number of attacks as in 2009 and evidence that the problem is now spreading to a wider area. The EU has also had problems over the prosecution of captured pirates, although it handed over 75 detainees for trial in Kenya in the first nine months of the year.
It is too early to judge the impact of the EU training mission in Uganda, as its first trainees did not graduate until mid-December 2010. Meanwhile, AMISOM has made some progress in securing Mogadishu in block-to-block fighting in the last months of 2010. But al-Shabaab still controls a good deal of territory. Terrorist attacks in Uganda’s capital Kampala by al-Shabaab in July 2010 underlined the difficulty of containing threats emerging from Somalia.
At High Representative Catherine Ashton’s instigation, the EU has begun to make efforts to consolidate the various strands of its Somalia policy into a more coherent whole. However, in 2010, there was still a clear discrepancy between the relative success of Atalanta in addressing piracy and the limited progress in stabilising Somalia itself. Making a success of the latter would require a much larger peace-enforcement operation than AMISOM – about which member states are sceptical