Exactly a year ago, Russia invaded Ukraine. This major escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War plunged Europe and the rest of the world into an energy and food crisis. This invasion surprised many who thought that armed conflicts of this degree would nowadays not be possible on European soil. Especially after a global pandemic that had just brought the whole world to its knees by incapacitating the supply chain of goods and raw material.
The invasion also triggered a broad awareness among European countries that the continent had for far too long neglected to adequately secure its supplies of energy, food and other material.
The Fight Against Piracy is a crucial part of Strengthening Europe’s Security
The Port of Antwerp in Belgium is the second busiest in Europe after Rotterdam, and ranks 15th in the world. Belgian shipping, together with the other shipping companies, bring the much-needed energy, building material, grains and consumer goods to Europe, and also bring European goods to the rest of the world. 90% of goods are carried by water. In times of conflict, the continuity of the supply chain is even more crucial for the security of our economy, our society and ultimately our freedoms and our democracy.
“Unbeknownst to many, piracy on shipping routes is today still a constant threat, even more lethal and aggressive in modern times,” says Elle De Soomer, RBSA’s Legal Affairs Director. “Any failure to contain piracy will tip the delicate balancing act of protecting our borders and strengthening our security.”
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Belgium Takes Over the Lead of Operation AGENOR
On January 13 this year until 1 June, Belgium took over for the second time the lead of Operation AGENOR, the military pillar of the EMASoH. The European Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz is a maritime security initiative led by seven European countries to ensure the safe transit in the area for merchant shipping.
Belgium’s Rear Admiral Renaud Flamant gave a strong message on the day of the takeover ceremony:
“As the new Force Commander, I am eager to continue the course set by my predecessors. Strengthening the freedom of navigation and maritime security in the Gulf region is of crucial importance. Not only for Belgium, but also for all EMASoH countries, our allies and also the broader international community.”
The Council prolongs its Horn of Africa missions
Likewise, the EU made a decisive move last December to protect Europe’s supply chain security by prolonging the mandates of its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operation in the Horn of Africa and Somalia.
As such, the EUCAP Somalia (the EU’s civilian capacity-building mission), the EUTM Somalia (the EU’s military training mission) and Operation ATALANTA (an EU executive military maritime operation) will be extended until 31 December 2024.
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“The Royal Belgian Shipowners’ Association is grateful to the Council for their decision to extend the mandate of those missions,” added De Soomer. “For merchant shipping to continue their work in keeping the supply chains running, especially in times of crises, we depend fully on these missions to mitigate any disruption to our navigation, or worse, threats to the lives of our crew and the integrity of our ships and cargos.”
Source: The Royal Belgian Shipowners’ Association