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Horn of Africa: Piracy

Volume 481: debated on Monday 27 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what the command relationships will be between Combined Task Force-150, Combined Joint Task Force—Horn of Africa and the new EU-led anti-piracy mission off the Horn of Africa; (228404)

(2) how many British ships will participate in the EU-led anti-piracy mission off the Horn of Africa, broken down by type of ship; and for how long the mission will last;

(3) what the cost will be for the British contribution to the EU-led anti-piracy mission off the Horn of Africa; and whether the Athena mechanism will be used to determine costs;

(4) what the legal basis is for the EU-led anti-piracy mission off the Horn of Africa.

We have supported EU planning for a counter-piracy naval operation off the coast of Somalia. A formal legal decision from the EU member states to act, but not yet to launch the operation, is expected in the next 10 days.

This will be based on a UK offer to provide the Operation Commander and Operation HQ. No decisions have been taken on the command structure relating to the Forward Headquarters, although we have made it clear that any European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) operation needs to ensure maximum co-ordination with Combined Task Force 150, Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa and NATO.

The legal basis for the EU-led mission will be a Joint Action adopted under Articles 14, 25 and 28 of the Treaty of European Union, to support resolutions 1814/2008, 1816/2008 and 1838/2008 of the UN Security Council Resolutions.

Force generation for the operation will not begin until EU Ministers have agreed to act. We intend to offer a Royal Navy frigate for part of the ESDP operation, but the timing and detail will be subject to ESDP force generation requirements and UK operational priorities. EU planning envisages an operation lasting one year from the declaration of Initial Operating Capability by the Operation Commander.

The cost of this mission to the United Kingdom comprises two elements. The first is the common costs, which are determined by the Athena mechanism. The common costs will include the cost to set up the Operation Headquarters and the Force Headquarters. The second element is national costs associated with any ship deployment. Until further planning has been completed it will not be possible to determine the cost of the British contribution to any potential ESDP operation to tackle piracy.