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07 December 2023

Dutch urge closer EU co-operation to combat piracy


Dutch Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin urged his European Union partners on Friday to boost co-operation in the fight against piracy off Somalia, saying it was a threat to lives and the economy.

"It is very important to us that we act together in our fight against piracy," he said as EU justice ministers met in Prague. "We need to co-operate."

"It's a danger for people on the ships, it's a danger for our economies," he told AFP.

His remarks came after Denmark agreed to extradite five pirates captured by the Danish navy in the Gulf of Aden on January 2.

The suspects were on a speedboat allegedly preparing to attack the Samanyulo, a cargo ship carrying the flag of the Netherlands Antilles.

The five are still in custody on the Absalon, the Danish frigate that intercepted the pirates and is part of Combined Task Force 150 – an international flotilla tracking pirates and traffickers off the Somali coast.

"It was a good thing that the Danish were able to seize these pirates and we are ready to try them," Ballin said, but he ruled out trying pirates in cases where no Dutch nationals or interests were involved.

"We think the most appropriate thing is that the flag states take care of trying the pirates," he said.

An EU mission Atalanta – a coalition that groups eight nations – began operations off Somalia on December 8 to try to stem the growing piracy in what is the first naval mission in the history of the bloc.

But the question of how to try pirates has remained a problem, given vast legal differences in the way EU countries handle such cases, and suspects cannot be transferred to nations where they could face the death penalty.

Roughly 100 ships were attacked in 2008 by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, a crucial trade route used by 12 per cent of the world's maritime trade and 30 per cent of its oil.