Lennart Landman (Netherlands Institute of International Relations – Clingendael)
For Europe, the sea has been one of the main sources of livelihood and prosperity for centuries, mostly thanks to fishing and international trade. In the modern times, we have become dependent on naval traffic, which keeps our economies up and running. Therefore, the European Union must deal with a number of various security threats such as rising tension among superpowers, piracy in Somalia and Western Africa, illegal migration through the Mediterranean, terrorism or illegal trade with arms, and human trafficking. The list moreover includes pollution and illegal fishing.
In June 2014, the European Union took an important step in the fight against these threats by introducing the European Union Maritime Security Strategy (EUMSS). This strategy has four main principles. The first one transcends all areas and focuses on the coordination and cooperation between civil, military, research and industrial players and EU agencies. The second principle is the maintenance of functional integrity of the “ecosystem”, using existing structures, tools, policies, mandates and powers both on the national and European level. The third principle is respect for human rights, democracy and international law in line with UN conventions. The fourth principle is the compliance with naval multilateralism via cooperation with international partners as well as organization and coordination of international forums. In order to ensure the efficiency of these principles, the EUMSS suggests strengthening EU’s actions also in other areas related to naval security.
According to the EUMSS, the EU should be a global player that would guarantee naval security in international waters. Although the strategy does not precisely specify regional priorities, one can expect that the EU is unlikely to interfere in the Asia-Pacific, where the United States and China are key players. On the other hand, there is a room for an increasing activity for example in the Indian Ocean and on the shores of Africa where a number of successful anti-piracy actions took place in the past. However, since the EUMSS does not introduce any mechanisms that would force EU Member States to implement that strategy, its success only depends on the Member States’ willingness to cooperate.
(The study can be downloaded here)