The European Union anti-pirate mission “Atalanta” which has for the last three years been patrolling around the Horn of Africa, currently involves up to ten ships at any one time – in an ocean area nearly the size of Europe.
Expanding the mandate to include airborne missions up to two kilometres inland to target “logistic facilities of the pirates” as the text describes it, has infuriated German opposition parties.
But Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved the expansion on Wednesday, which Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere denied was a radical transformation of the initial mandate.
“This is a small, useful, additional military operation – it doesn’t take the mission to a new level,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels.
“This is about additional action on the beach, not inland.”
But Green Party defence expert Omid Nouripour said it was “a bad, senseless adventure,” while his counterpart from the Social Democrats, Rainer Arnold said his party would either vote against or abstain in a parliamentary poll.
Despite opposition, the mandate is expected to be approved in the vote on May 11.
The Bundeswehr has criticised the EU mandate expansion, expressing amazement that for example, the physical extent of the missions had already been set – giving pirates the opportunity to react by, for example, simply moving their bases further inland.
Germany provides the biggest ship of the “Atalanta” fleet, the “Berlin”, which can carry up to 230 people. The mandate expansion would only include flying missions – troops would only engage on the ground in exceptional circumstances such as rescue missions.