Piracy: Germany to the Rescue?
Maritime security is as important to Germany as to any other nation on Earth. Its export economy depends on the free and uninterrupted movement of goods across oceans in order to reach far-flung markets. Increasingly, however, this freedom has come under attack. Due to piracy off the coast of Africa, trade prospects have dimmed, leaving many wondering what is to be done. The time has come for Germany to act.
The way in which Somali pirates have managed to threaten shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden shows how the instability of seemingly far-off countries can have a direct impact on developed nations. In the medium term, the fragility of these states and the increase in the numbers of attacks in West Africa could drive Germany to become more involved in the protection of shipping routes in this area. Germany's dependence on the sea has to be mirrored by an increase in its engagement in this respect. Some specific recommendations:
1. Germany must recognize its dependence on the sea. The importance of the sea for natural resources, food, transportation and as an arena for international conflicts will continue to grow in our maritime 21st century. In strategic documents, Germany needs to focus on its interests more strongly and boldly than ever before. It is also vital that the German public be made aware of the importance of the sea for the country's prosperity and of the need to deploy political and military capabilities to safeguard access to trading routes.
2. Germany also has to be prepared to combat piracy off the coast of West Africa. The increase in attacks in this area is a cause for concern. Consideration should be given to assisting the coastguards in Nigeria and Benin to expand their capacity, and to providing support for the West African economic community ECOWAS. Germany must be prepared to react appropriately to such developments, both politically and militarily.
3. State institutions in the region need to be strengthened in order to prevent maritime insecurity. Piracy is a symptom of weak states; at present Western countries are particularly committed to building and strengthening state institutions. However, if there is a clear unwillingness on the part of these states to take action against piracy, then Germany has an obligation to work with holders of regional and local power in order to combat piracy. In Somalia, this could take the form of a practical collaboration with local coast guards and militias, perhaps in the areas of intelligence and prosecutions.
4. Germany must create the correct legal basis to ensure that its military forces are given legal certainty. The transfer of police duties to the military is particularly prevalent in asymmetrical conflicts. Even if the police hold legal powers, they generally lack the means to make themselves felt in the Horn of Africa. In Atalanta, the deployment of German forces is governed by article 24, paragraph 2 of the German constitution as a system of collective security within the EU, because the scope of article 87a of the constitution is insufficient to cover such deployment. Pragmatic approaches such as Atalanta may bring lasting solutions, but in the upcoming legislative period, efforts should be made to pass an amendment to article 35 of the constitution (legal and administrative assistance) and to add an addendum to article 87a paragraph 2 to include the deployment of German military forces outside of sovereign territory in accordance with international law in order to provide support for German federal authorities.
5. Germany needs to have effective naval forces that are to be maintained solely in conjunction with its European partners. The deployment of naval forces to fight piracy off the Horn of Africa has shown that Germany is prepared to make a military commitment to ensuring the safety of trade routes. Secondly, the European Union moved beyond its immediate confines with its first maritime mission in the Indian Ocean. Thirdly, when it comes to the Indian Ocean and the shift of power in Asia, Germany's security policy needs to have an effective maritime component. All this means that Germany needs a broad-based and fully operational navy. However, budgetary considerations mean that the necessary military capacity can no longer be maintained at the purely national level. As a result, it is imperative to strive to increase European capabilities. Germany needs to drive forward initiatives such as "Pooling & Sharing" in order to make the most of synergies in the maritime arena.
By David Petrovic, PhD candidate at the University of Cologne and scholarship recipient of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.
These policy recommendations were first published in: David Petrovic (2013): The fight against piracy: one aspect of Germany's maritime security, in: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (editor): Facts & Findings. Prospects for German Foreign Policy No. 129.
With their series "Prospects for German Foreign Policy", the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) intends to contribute to a more comprehensive strategic discussion on foreign policy issues. Over the next few months, they will publish brief policy papers on a number of subjects they hold to be of particular importance. These papers combine foreign policy analysis with concrete suggestions for action on German policy.