It has been announced that the EU’s military operation will relocate from its base in Northwood to France and Spain next year.
EU leaders announced on July 30 that the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Operational Headquarters will set up camp in the Spanish coastal town of Rota after moving from its Sandy Lane headquarters in Northwood after March 29 next year, when the UK is set to leave the EU.
The Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) will be relocated to the French city of Brest, meanwhile.
The mission, which is also referred to as Operation Atalanta, was launched in December 2008, aimed at protecting ships belonging to the World Food Programme (WFP) and African Union Mission in Somalia, which has been waging war on jihadist group Al-Shabaab.
The decision has been forced by the June 2016 referendum when Britons voted to leave the EU, meaning the exit could reduce Britain’s standing as a military and defence force.
Operational Commander, Major General Charlie Stickland, said: “The transition is being planned with the utmost consideration to ensure it is smooth and seamless with continued cooperation and collaboration with all stakeholders throughout the region.
“During this time Atalanta will be conducting business as usual with the Force Headquarters and ships remaining deployed and conducting deterrence of piracy and protection of (WFP) shipping.
“I am already working closely with Vice Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave and it is my role to ensure that this operation remains a Common Security and Defence Police (CSDP) exemplar and that my successor is set up for continued success.”
The number of attacks off the coast of Somalia in the Indian Ocean has dropped in recent years from a peak of 176 in 2011 to seven in 2017. Only one has been recorded so far in 2018, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
The decision by EU leaders also sees Italy, which bid for EU NAVFOR, lose out again. The Italian government had put Rome forward as its candidate city. It also put Rome forward to host the European Medicines Agency (EMA) – losing out following a draw of lots – and threatened to take legal action against the European Commission early this year when it was revealed that the new office premises in Amsterdam would not be ready in time.