A shocking rise in pirate attacks over the last decade has left many in the shipping industry scrambling for protection, leading to a new market for security forces trained to fight off the swashbuckling foes. Photographer Amnon Gutman witnessed this scramble for security first-hand as he sailed one of the most dangerous waterways in the world with a crew, their cargo — and a private security detail trained in pirate-deflecting techniques. The fear of attack, especially near Somalia, is a well-founded one. As Gutman notes, of the 439 attacks reported to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in 2011, 275 attacks took place off Somalia’s east coast and in the Gulf of Guinea on the west coast of Africa. However, while Somali pirates continue to account for the majority of attacks — approximately 54 percent – and while the overall number of Somali incidents increased from 219 in 2010 to 237 in 2011, the number of successful hijackings decreased from 49 to 28. The 802 crew members taken hostage in 2011 also marks a decrease from the four-year high of 1,181 in 2010.
This may be because of more aggressive policing — the European Union recently authorized its most expansive mission against pirates in Africa — but many ships aren’t taking any chances. On this journey through the Indian Ocean on a shipping vessel that wishes to remain anonymous, SeaGull security walked through the methods still being developed to combat modern piracy.
Above, crew members secure barbed wires on the side of the tanker to prevent potential pirates from climbing aboard two days before going into the high-risk zone.
The EU (European Union) agreed, on March 23rd, to allow its anti-piracy force off Somalia (EUNAVFOR) to attack coastal targets and coordinate military operations with the Somali TNG (Transitional National Government). This means that EUNAVFOR ships and aircraft can attack pirate targets on land. Most of the pirate bases (coastal towns and villages) are in Puntland, a self-declared state in northern Somalia. While less violent and chaotic than southern Somalia, Puntland officials are bribed and intimidated (by the superior firepower of the pirate gangs) into inaction. Technically, Puntland is opposed to the pirates, so the EU is hoping that Puntland won’t make a stink when EU forces begin shooting at pirates on the coast.
The EU plan apparently involves going after pirate logistics and fuel supplies in their coastal havens. This could be tricky, as the pirates are well aware of how the Western media works and could easily put many of these targets in residential neighborhoods. The EU could respond by blockading the pirate bases, and attacking pirate attempts to truck in fuel and other supplies. Pirates could put civilians on trucks, or even captured sailors from ships held for ransom. There is no easy solution to the Somali pirates. This new policy is not a radical shift in policy, but a continuation of a trend that has been under way for a while. For example, in the last year, the EU, and other members of the anti-piracy patrol, have taken a more aggressive approach to the pirates. Pirate mother ships (usually captured ocean going fishing ships) have been attacked on sight and any speedboat carrying armed men face similar treatment. Continue reading
Ahead of a referendum in the north on attitudes towards Pristina, there are growing signs that a number of actors – particularly KFOR and the EU – are beginning to grasp the realities of the north, including the need to treat the local leaders as legitimate interlocutors.
By Gerard M. Gallucci
The snows are piled deep throughout the Balkans leaving many stranded and dealing with the cold and electricity shortages. Scores have died including an entire family – minus a young survivor – in an avalanche in southern Kosovo. Kosovo issues, however, seem not to be taking any winter leave, with a vote due this week in the north on attitudes towards Pristina, continued focus on the Kosovo Serb barricades and EU consideration of the continued role of EULEX.
The northern Kosovo Serbs says that they are ready for their “referendum” to be held February 14-15. It will reportedly ask for a “yes” or “no” response to a single question – “do you accept the institutions of the so-called Republic of Kosovo?” Much has been made of this vote – essentially a poll unlikely to produce much surprise and with no legal or operational result. Now, the UN has jumped into the fray – reportedly saying the vote is contrary to law and that UNMIK will have no role in it. The Kosovo police, however, plan no special measures and KFOR’s concerns seem more about the vote provoking violence against Kosovo Serbs south of the Ibar.
Against the general backdrop of EU and German pressures on Belgrade over Kosovo, the International Crisis Group braved the snow and cold to travel through the north to look at the barricades there. ICG found official crossing points open but unused, with travel continuing across the boundary through alternative routes. ICG’s conclusion: “Trying to use issues like freedom of movement – or the rule of law – as tools to change locals’ minds about sovereignty issues, rather than as ends in themselves, just damages the tool. The dispute isn’t a technicality and cannot be resolved as though it were.”
Meanwhile, the Pristina newspaper Zëri reports that UNMIK appears to have negotiated a “gentleman’s agreement” to allow EULEX access through the barricades. UNMIK reportedly told the paper that it was “actively engaged” in discussing “unconditional freedom of movement” in the north with “northern Serbs, as well as officials in Belgrade” alongside KFOR and EULEX efforts to do the same. No details but perhaps the “gentleman’s agreement” allows EULEX to travel on the assumption they would not be conveying Kosovo Customs to the boundary crossings? In its trip report, however, ICG reported that the northerners are still watching the roads.
There is further reporting on the EU’s plans for “reformatting” the EULEX mission later this year “taking into account the progress made by Kosovo authorities in the rule of law and the needs of changing the mission.” This would be in-line with plans announced by the Quint last month to move toward ending “supervised independence” of Kosovo. A spokesman for prime minister Thaci told Balkan Insight that “we expect that in regions like in Mitrovica and Prizren, no EULEX police officers will be stationed due to the good performance of the police…[and] the same goes for customs.” Such changes would seem to take EULEX out of its peacekeeping role in the north – where it has taken the UN’s place on crucial rule of law issues including the police, courts and customs. Continue reading
12 December 2011
NASA image showing the Arctic Ozone Loss
While calls for global governance gathered momentum throughout the 20th Century, its origins are steeped in history. Today, the ISN looks to the past to develop an argument for formal global interdependence.
By Peter Faber for the ISN
Global interdependence is a phrase we’ve all been overexposed to. But as the introduction to this week’s topic reminds us, it can mean different things to different people. To many it means developing a malleable and incorruptible form of cosmopolitan citizenship, while to others it means marching inexorably towards some form of formalized global governance. This latter march, although the European Union pilot project might suggest otherwise, is not a recently developed concept. Some argue it originates with Herodotus, but its modern roots actually lie in the shape-shifting church politics of the European Middle Ages.
‘Constantinianism’ – The term was a pejorative anti-papal one in the late Middle Ages, but it signaled the first steps away from the Christian universalism (the Christianopolis) of earlier church fathers. As an initial half-step towards the idea of extended secular communities, Constantinianism embodied growing papal claims to secular authority and, more generally, all forms of Church involvement in the secular government of the world. Dante Alighieri further aided in the blurring of Christian and secular constructions of community in his De Monarchia. As the title suggests, it was a pro-imperial text, but its concept of society and of sovereignty transcended other religiously-tainted political visions of the time. Yes, it endorsed the need for ‘big man’ leadership in politics, but it also advocated an extended society of civil peace, order and justice where everyone should be free to seek their individual and common good. That quest would be possible, or so Dante argued, because centralized rule would not be imposed by force, but by bringing out the best in others.
So what did the above ideological ‘tilts’ bequeath subsequent advocates of far-reaching, comprehensive governance? First, the growing secularization of human problems, but not at the expense of destroying the idea of human-wide community. Second, the influential De Monarchia established what is now a wide-spread belief – i.e., that the political answers to human problems are often structural ones. In Dante’s case, the required structural reform was the installation of a universal secular monarch. Only through his presence was the perfection of the earthly city possible. Third, Dante and several other fellow travelers helped bring peace down to Earth. In their view, peace wasn’t an expression or consequence of divine agency; it actually was the consequence of human arrangements. Marsilius of Padua then added one final piece to the then-cutting edge belief that peace, justice and harmony were most possible when connected to potentially large and secular political structures. In Defensor Pacis, he elaborated further on the nature of peace. His peace, however, was an instrumental and civil one; it wasn’t defined by end states. It depended, in other words, on governmental parts that functioned smoothly and interacted properly. Continue reading
The EU’s police and justice mission in Kosovo, EULEX, said a judge had dismissed all five counts against Hashim Rexhepi.
The charges had included abuse of office and fraud. Continue reading
BRUSSELS – The European Parliament on Wednesday (14 December) called on member states to submit reports on the cost-efficiency of their counter-terrorism measures and their impact on civil liberties, with the European Commission set to produce an EU-wide evaluation.
“Remarkably little has been done to assess to what degree EU counter-terrorism policies have achieved the stated objectives,” MEPs said in the non-binding text, which calls on the EU commission to make use of its powers under the Lisbon Treaty and to produce a “full and detailed” evaluation of such policies and the extent to which they are subject to democratic scrutiny.
The cost-efficiency report should include spending for online snooping, data protection measures, funding of counter-terrorism research and relevant EU expenditures set in place since 2001, such as the appointment of an EU anti-terrorism co-ordinator and his staff. Continue reading
Studies of the international relations of the Middle East have been dominated by discussions of inter-state relations and conflicts. The dominant state- and conflict-centric approaches used to study this region largely ignore the impact of regional structures and non-state actors. Furthermore, much existing literature tends to view the region’s international relations in a relatively short time-frame. This usually entails exploring the region’s history since World War One. Again, this is problematic as it results in the exclusion of an analysis of the transformation of the regional system since the mid-19th century. The main argument of this paper is manifested in two parts. The first is that the proliferation of states in the Middle East following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the occupation of much of the region by the British and French following World War One led to the disintegration of intra-regional relations. That is to say that, relations between people in the Middle East were relatively integrated under the imperial system in the sense that there were fewer borders and boundaries (both physical and imagined) between them. This was a result of the lack of state borders within the region – these were few in number and left large swathes of territory as part of the same political entity and economic market. Introducing modern states as a way of organising people into political entities resulted in the creation of many political borders and many claims to sovereignty over territories which often were relatively small in scope. The second element of this paper’s argument is that the post-World War One disintegration of the Middle East system disrupted economic as well as political activity within the region, ultimately resulting in more instability in intra-regional relations.
Essential to this study is the belief in the value of historical analysis as well as the adoption of the tools of historical sociology in the study of international relations. Understanding and explaining the relations of the Middle East requires us to view the history of the region not as cyclical or full of patterns of behaviour. There is more value in viewing the region’s history as containing multiple layers of progression/movement from one condition to another – unevenly experienced at different times and in different spaces for the inhabitants of the region. It is certainly the position of this paper that searching for patterns of behaviour with regards to this region at least prevents the development of an eclectic framework of analysis which can take into account the diversity of experiences of the people in the region. Continue reading
UN Kosovo mission chief Farid Zarif spoke to the UN Security Council on November 29 — one day after clashes between ethnic Serbs and NATO-led peacekeepers left 30 NATO soldiers and some 100 Serbs injured.
The violence occurred as NATO sought to remove roadblocks set up by the Serbs.
The UN envoy described the northern part of Kosovo, where Serbs reject rule by Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanians, as “extremely volatile.”
He said the “combined factors of frustration, fear, and mistrust could easily and quickly provide the spark that could ignite violence.”
The envoy said the heightened tensions were partly caused by the politics of elections in Serbia due next spring, as well as what he called the “current political dynamics” of the ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo government. Continue reading
Sunday, November 27, 2011
VATICAN CITY (AP) — European inspectors fighting money laundering on Saturday wrapped up a week of meetings with church officials as part of ensuring that the Holy See’s law conforms with international efforts to combat financing of terrorism, the Vatican said.
The officials will issue a report that will that will be discussed by experts at the Council of Europe, likely in mid-2012, the Vatican said in a statement.
Earlier this year, Italian prosecutors ordered the release of (euro) 23 million ($33 million) seized from a Vatican Bank account as part of a money-laundering probe. Italian financial police had seized the money in September 2010, and placed the bank’s two top officials under investigation, over allegations that the bank broke the law by trying to transfer funds without identifying the sender and recipient. Continue reading
Europe continued to move into uncharted waters today as Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s rule appeared over and Greece has reportedly decided on a new prime minister.
Greece, and more significantly Italy, are in the throes of a eurozone debt crisis whose dynamics appear to be accelerating, with what two years ago was an economic and banking crisis now proving to have profound political consequences.
“The eurozone now faces political, economic, financial, and institutional crises all at the same time,” argues Sony Kapoor of the Brussels think tank Re-Define.
Prime Minister Berlusconi today failed to achieve a majority in the Italian parliament in a vote considered a symbolic referendum on his ability to handle the nation at a time of greater urgency than Italy has faced in decades. He agreed to resign if parliament passed austerity measures that the European Union wants.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano made a statement later in the evening that Berlusconi – who has been a major force in Italian politics over the past 18 years, both in office and out – would leave his job after a budget law is passed this month.
Moments after the today’s parliamentary vote on a budget deal, opposition leader Pier Luigi Bersani stood to say, “I ask you, Mr. Prime Minister, with all my strength, to finally take account of the situation … and resign,” and said a lack of confidence by markets in Italy would soon block the nation’s access to loans and capital.
Italy is Europe’s third-largest economy, and its current 1.9-trillion euro debt (about $2.6 trillion) surpasses that of Greece, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal combined.
Calls for Berlusconi’s departure came from all sides of the Italian political spectrum, including today from key coalition partner Umberto Bossi, head of the Northern League party. Italy’s borrowing costs are above a perilous 6 percent, and there’s a restless spirit among the Italian public. Yesterday, amid rumors that Berlusconi was resigning, markets shot up, then fell as the prime minister said the rumors were untrue.
A crisis that keeps sweeping up victims
In the past year, the euro debt crisis has claimed governments in Ireland and Portugal. Last week Greece and this week Italy have been swept into the fray.
A few hours after the Italian vote, prominent Greek media outlets said Lucas Papademos would take over as prime minister of a caretaker government, following the resignation this week of former Prime Minister George Papandreou. Greece is under pressure by the EU to pass a 130 billion euro bailout deal before it can receive some 8 billion euros to remain solvent in December. Mr. Papandreou’s call for a public referendum on the deeply unpopular bailout terms threw world markets into a tailspin last week, and brought political and European turmoil that the former prime minister could not surmount.
Mr. Papademos, a former deputy chief of the European Central Bank and now a Harvard professor, was the leading candidate for a job that would test the outer limits of any leader. He must bring the two main parties together to agree on next year’s national budget; pass through parliament the 130 billion euro bailout agreed to in Brussels on Oct. 26; negotiate with the troika of the EU, the ECB, and the IMF on the terms of that deal; and set the way for new elections next year.
Delays on the appointment followed reports that Papademos wanted to choose his own ministers and extend what has been considered a 100-day limit for the interim body. As Papademos, a former chief economic adviser at the Bank of Greece, let it be known to reporters, ”I was the one to sign Greek entry in the [eurozone], and I won’t be the one to sign its exit.” Continue reading