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EU's Borrell Highlights Importance of Operation ASPIDES During Visit to Greece


Wed 10 Jul 2024 | 09:35 PM
Josep Borrell Fontelles
Josep Borrell Fontelles
Nada Mustafa

During his visit to the Operational Headquarters in Larissa, Greece, on July 5, 2024, EU High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell, alongside Greek Minister for National Defence Nikos Dendias, addressed the ongoing efforts and successes of Operation ASPIDES. 

This European Union naval operation aims to protect maritime security in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, regions increasingly threatened by Houthi attacks. 

Borrell emphasized the critical role of Operation ASPIDES in safeguarding international trade, regional stability, and humanitarian aid, while also stressing the need for continued political and diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in Yemen.

'SEE' publishes the full extract of Borrell's remarks: 

Thank you, my dear Minister. 

I am very pleased to be here in Larissa with Minister [for National Defence of Greece, Nikos] Dendias. I have been working with you, together as Foreign Affairs Minister, now I see you as Defence Minister.  

Congratulations for your work, and thank you, to all of you – to all officers that are working on this operation. 

You know that since last October, the security in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden has increasingly deteriorated. This has led to an acute crisis.  

The Houthis are [launching] increasingly sophisticated [attacks], developing more capacity to attack our commercial ships, threaten maritime security and international trade, and putting regional peace and security at risk. 

The figures are quite clear, allow me to mention some of them. 

A redirection of the maritime traffic through the Cape of Good Hope adds from 10 to 14 days per journey. This means more costs; more costs mean higher prices, higher prices mean more inflation. [As well as] Increased prices of shipped materials, insurance. It is quite important. The cost of a container from China to Europe has doubled. 

The daily transit of ships through the Suez Canal is cut in half. It [means] a lot of money lost by Egypt, and a lot of trouble for the world economy.  

These attacks have also dramatic consequences for the countries in the region. I mentioned the case of Egypt losing a lot of revenues.  

And as always, the poorest are the most impacted. 

For example, in Yemen. In Yemen, the flow of goods has been massively reduced. The Yemeni population is further deprived of necessary life-saving assistance and facing challenges due to the rising costs of food and a deterioration of food security.  

I said it the last time I spoke alongside the Operation Commander, [Rear] Admiral [Vasileios] Gryparis and I want to stress it now again. 

These attacks are a direct attack to our interests – to the interests of the European Union - to the regional peace and stability, and to the lives of people in need.  

That is why we launched this Operation ASPIDES. With its mandate – the Admiral has been reminding the mandate - to protect ships under attack, to accompany vessels, and to reinforce maritime situational awareness.  

The mission was launched in February. Since then, [Operation] ASPIDES has successfully accompanied more than 170 merchant vessels. It has destroyed 19 drones and missiles that the Houthis shot, primarily against civilian targets. 

Let me recall, that this Operation, Operation ASPIDES, has a strictly defensive mandate. We are not engaged in any operation against the Houthis on land. Our vessels operate in self-defence and to protect targeted ships. 

This mission, [Operation] ASPIDES, has gathered large support from day one. From the beginning of the mission. Six Member States deploy frigates in international waters in the region, and 15 Member States contribute with personnel in the Operational Headquarters.  

I had the pleasure to meet many of them, here in Larissa and at the Force Head Quarters at sea.  

That is what we are doing - but we do not act alone.  

[Operation] Aspides cooperates closely with the French-led operation AGENOR, and other partners in the area. And we have regular contacts with the US-led Operation Prosperity Guardian.  

This is an important mission, and we will continue to act to constrain the capacities of the violent actors spoiling peace prospects, threatening civilians, and putting maritime security at risk. 

Thank you for your work. Thank you for your professionalism, thank you for your full engagement with this mission. But the mission will not be enough.  

We have to complement the work with steady political and diplomatic engagement to help de-escalate, to mediate, and support a peaceful solution to the conflict in Yemen. 

We are working on that, and we will not spare any efforts in doing so.  

In conclusion, my dear Minister, dear Admiral, dear Officers, this Operation is a concrete evidence of our will, our capacity to strengthen international security, to defend the European Union and global interests, and safeguard the universal right of freedom of navigation. 

I am very proud. 

Operation ASPIDES is a clear example of how the European Union can effectively act as a maritime security provider.  

And now, dear Minister, dear Admiral, I am travelling to Djibouti. I will be very happy; I am looking forward to seeing your vessels in action, to visit them tomorrow morning, to encourage them to continue working for these purposes. 

Once again, congratulations, and Thank you..