Coastal Crime Europe Prepares to Join the Pirate Patrol
Piracy along the coast of Somalia has been a persistent problem for the past year. NATO and EU officials hope that a show of military force can do some good. Not everyone is convinced.
No one doubts that the pirate-infested waters off the coast of Somalia have become increasingly dangerous over the past year. The European Union just isn't sure it can do anything about it.
Pirates bit off more than they could chew when they nabbed the Ukrainian merchant vessel Faina last month.
Parliamentarians are concerned that the mandate is dangerously vague. Critics point out that it's not clear whether war ships sailing under the EU flag would have the authority to sink pirate ships or arrest their crew.
The pertinent maritime law is indeed ambiguous. In June, the UN Security Council gave a green light to the international community to undertake robust efforts by declaring Somali piracy a threat to international peace. But, the degree of engagement of will depend on every individual country's national laws.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has already shown that he takes an expansive view of his country's laws: earlier this year, Sarkozy ordered military force to be used against Somali pirates after they hijacked passenger ships. But, Germany's hands seem more tightly tied: it is still bound by a 1994 treaty that forbids attacking ships that have successfully taken hostages. There are also questions as to what role the German constitution would allow the country to play.
EU missions around the world.
European parliamentarians, for their part, point out that European military forces are already overstretched to the snapping point. One parliamentarian pointed out that, as a result, European military operations are all "chronically underfinanced."
If Europe feels behooved to search for more affordable solutions, the history books offer at least one cost-effective option: In the 17th century, Haiti's French governor tried to tame local pirates by shipping hundreds of prostitutes to their lair. That mission, it seems, was a success.
csa -- with wire reports