The cabinet of the German government today approved the extension of the area of operations of German forces participating in Operation Atalanta, the EU's counterpiracy mission off the coast of Somalia.
The new mandate, which still has to be approved by the Bundestag, the German parliament, would allow the German navy to engage pirates up to two kilometers inland, for example destroying logistical targets by air attack. Up until now, counterpiracy operations were limited to ocean waters.
German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière, in Brussels for a NATO foreign and defense ministers meeting, said the mandate would increase the military options available but added that it would mean engaging pirates on the coast, not inland. The Free Democrats, the junior partner in the German government (de Maizière is a Christian Democrat), had feared that amphibious operations could cause civilian casualties and that pirates could threaten reprisals against captured crews.
The Council of the EU agreed on 23 March to expand the area of operations of Operation Atalanta. If the Bundestag approves, Germany will continue to participate with a personnel ceiling of 1,400. The first reading of the new mandate in the Bundestag is planned next week.