A Geopolitical Balancing Game? EU and NATO in the Fight Against Somali Piracy
This paper investigates the EU's 2008 decision to launch a maritime, military operation - NAVFOR Somalia/Operation Atalanta - off the Somali coast, as opposed to extending the NATO operation that was already in the area. Riddervold suggests a two phase analysis, drawing on communicative action-, and neo-realist theory.
This paper examines the EU’s decision to launch a maritime military EU mission (Operation Atalanta), to fight piracy off the Somali coast, instead of strengthening and extending the humanitarian North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operation that was already operating in the area. This is a particular puzzle as several of the member states have been sceptical to establish autonomous EU operations, and were initially in favour of instead establishing a long-term, strong NATO operation. However, with Atalanta, it is the EU and not NATO who has taken the lead in the military fight against piracy, both politically and militarily. Why is this so? The analysis suggests that the decision to prioritize the EU can be explained in two phases. In a first phase, which may be accounted for from a neo realist perspective, France, who held the EU Presidency, used a set of favorable geopolitical conditions to put an autonomous EU operation on the negotiation table. However, agreement on the EU option cannot be explained as a result of strategic bargaining. Instead, in a second phase and in line with an alternative hypothesis building on communicative action theory, the EU member states supported the French suggestion due to legitimacy considerations linked to its legal framework.