A majority among the political parties in the Danish Parliament agrees that Denmark should participate in an effort against piracy off the coast of West Africa, just as Denmark participated in the international effort off Somalia.
Piracy off West Africa has escalated significantly in recent months, and that's why the parties believe that Denmark should help protect shipping in the region, including military presence if necessary, but also with a constructive effort to ensure a better financial development in the countries around the Gulf of Guinea.
"We are very much in favor of such an effort, which of course has to serve dual purposes, as was the case by Somalia. Of course we're not just going in there to hunt pirates, we have to be part of a coalition to provide support for building an infrastructure, to create a livelihood for the local populations," says defense spokesman Bjarne Laustsen (Social Democrat) to ShippingWatch.
The European shipowners' association ECSA recently appealed to the EU to launch an effort against piracy off the coast of West Africa, and it's this call that the parties are now responding to.
"Of course Denmark has to help with infrastructure and aid," says defense spokesman Jonas Dahl (Socialist People's Party), who also agrees with the need for an effort with Danish participation.
Several of the major political parties call for more information from the shipowners in order to better evaluate the scope of a Danish participation, and are thus asking the Danish Shipowners' Association to make a move. The defense spokesmen on the right, Troels Lund Poulsen (The Liberal party) and Lene Espersen (Conservative) also support a Danish involvement, though pointing out that the Danish EU defense opt-out could prevent Denmark from participating in a military effort:
"We would very much like to be part of a possible EU effort off West Africa. But the big problem is the Danish EU reservation. It's a shame that we can't go in and help the EU perform a job like this, where Denmark has a massive interest and a lot of experience," says Lene Espersen.
Even though the NATO operation Ocean Shield off the coast of Somalia is mentioned as a positive example, there's agreement across the board that the situation in West Africa is different and significantly more demanding. The effort in the Gulf of Aden is focused on one country and the ships that need protection are passing through, many of them between Asia and Europe.
An effort off West Africa would involve several countries, and the ships concerned are headed for the African ports. Among other factors, this makes it difficult to agree on the rules for carrying armed guards on board the ships.