In search for a mission? The EU’s regional training mission EUCAP Nestor

By Christian Bueger

eucap_nestor_logo_brightThe European Union (EU) has been one of the driving actors of counter-piracy: EUNAVFOR Atalanta is one of the core naval force providers, the EU has been one of the core sponsors of the UNODC’s Counter Piracy Project, EUTM Somalia provides military training in Somalia, and the Critical Maritime Routes Program intends to enhance information sharing and training capacities.

The latest addition to the counter-piracy architecture by the EU is the regional training mission EUCAP Nestor. In July 2012 the Council of the European Union decided (EU. Doc. 2012/389/CFSP) to establish a two year mission to complement the EU’s naval operation EUNAVFOR Atalanta with a land-based component. The mission is directed towards assisting states in the development of “a self-sustainable capacity for continued enhancement of their maritime security including counter-piracy, and maritime governance capacities” (EU. Doc. 2012/389/CFSP, Article 2). Headquartered in Djibouti the mission is geographically focussed on supporting Djibouti, Kenya, the Seychelles, Somalia and Tanzania. Equipped with a budget of 22 million Euro for the initial first twelve months the goal of the civil mission is primarily in training coastguards and in assisting with legal reform. The original decision document (EU. Doc. 2012/389/CFSP, Article 3) set out ten objectives which can be summarized as support for coast guards and land-based coastal police capabilities, the delivery of training courses and expertise with the goal to achieve self-sustainability in training, a regional legal advisory programme, and legal expertise to support the drafting of maritime security and related national legislation; the promotion and strengthening of regional cooperation, the assignment of experts to key administrations; and to coordinate donations. The mission is carried out in the frame of the EU’s Common Security and Defense policy and works under the auspice and reports to the EU’s Political and Security Committee (PSC) and a governing body was set up of the mission in January 2013 (EU Doc 2013/41/CFSP). The first effective deployment began with a core team in September 2012, the Djibouti headquarter was opened in February 2013 followed by the opening of an office in the Seychelles in April 2013.

A Rocky Start

The mission had a rocky start. With the mission the EU entered an already competitive field with various other programs already providing similar assistance. How Nestor could complemented and add to the existing work of UNODC, the IMO as well as UNDP was unclear, it niche underspecified, and there was an imminent danger that Nestor would merely contribute assistance that was already in place. According to an observer the initial Nestor team lacked experience and knowledge about existing activities and was uncertain about how Nestor’s objectives should be implemented in practice. Coordinating Nestor with existing programs to avoid replication and overlap proved hence to be a major challenge.

Nestor, secondly, faced a staffing problem. The expertise needed for the mission was not readily available. This is unsurprising not only since many of the qualified experts were already working for other programs, but given the lack of attention that question of maritime security governance had, the pool of expertise is narrow in general. In consequence Nestor was launched with a staff of 25 and had reached 45 by September 2013, although its budget projects up to 170 staff members.

A third issue arose in relation to two of the target states. While notably Djibouti and the Seychelles welcomed the mission, the authorities of Kenya and Tanzania choose not to participate in Nestor. According to the UK’s Minister for Europe, the main problem was that “both Kenya and Tanzania wish to be offered heavy equipment — such as coastguard vessels” (House of Commons 2013:22). Yet, Nestor’s mandate focusses on skills and expertise, and not on equipment. Notably Kenya is in the position where it has been receiving substantial expert assistance from UNODC, the IMO or other sources since 2008, and is at a point where it is rather equipment than training what is needed.

Nestor’s Timeline

16.7.2012 Council Decision 2012/389/CFSP
11.1.2013 PSC Decision 2013/41/CFSP
6.-8.2.2013 Somali Maritime Security seminar brought together three representatives of the Somali Federal Government, led by Admiral Said Adan Yusuf (Deputy Chief of Navy) and five representatives of the Puntland authorities, led by H.E. Abdullahi Jama (State Minister for Puntland Ministry of Security) to meet in Djibouti with EUCAP NESTOR senior representatives,
14.2.2013 Counter piracy exercise with Djibouti Coastguard
14.2.2013 Headquarter inaugurated
16.2. 2013 Counter-piracy exercise with Seychelles Coastguard to increase the judges’ understanding of how the Coast Guard intercepts pirates and to help the Coast Guard understand what the courts requires from a legal point of view in prosecuting pirates.
3.2013 Crime Scene Investigation Training
24-26.4.2013 Head of Mission visits Seychelles, joint exercise EUNAVFOR/ Seychelles Coastguards. Office in Seychelles opened
12.-13.6.2013 first regional conference on maritime security in Djibouti This conference brought together high level practitioners from agencies working on regional security in the Horn of Africa: Djibouti, Seychelles, Somalia and Tanzania.
Mid June Air Force training course. six officers of the Seychelles Air Force completed sensor and image analysis training courses provided by experts from Luxembourg together with EUCAP Nestor.Three SAF officers received a two-week training in how to use the radar and cameras on the Dornier aircraft. Three other officers took a four week course in how to analyse the images.
9.7.2013 Council Decision 2013/367/CFSP increase spent period for budget by 4 months
22.7.2013 Donation of material (“engine spare parts including an alternator, two turbochargers and some gasket”) estimated at €9000 to Seychelles Coast Guard.
9.8.2013 12 officers from the Seychelles Coast Guard complete a two week course in how to become better trainers in areas such as maritime safety and security, environmental protection, and counter-piracy.
August 2013 Head of Mission replaced
18 – 26.8. 2013 Senior maritime security course for 14 participants on board EU Naval Force flagship HNLMS Johan de Witt.
26.8.2013 New Office in the Seychelles opened
18 August 2013 Day long workshop with senior members of the Puntland judiciary at the President’s State House in Garowe. Chief Justice, Attorney General and other members of the judiciary outlined how the criminal justice system in Puntland works in practice, with particular focus on its main strengths and challenges.
August/ September 2013 Nine week training programme to enhance the capacity of Seychelles prosecutors to prosecute trials, in particular piracy trials, through developing advocacy and presentational skills.

In consequence the activities of Nestor were fairly limited (see table) and the mission primarily collaborated with the Seychelles. Following Nestor’s press office (EUCAP Nestor 2013) between February and September 2013 Nestor facilitated three coast guard exercises with Djibouti and the Seychelles, held a regional maritime security conference, provided three training programs to authorities from the Seychelles (air force, coastguard, and prosecutors) and held one workshop with representatives from the Somali Federal Government and one with judiciary representatives from Puntland. By summer 2013 it became increasingly obvious that the mission had difficulties to implement the objectives. In its first ten months of operation NESTOR had used only 15% of its budget for the full year (House of Commons 2013:22). In consequence, in August 2013 the mission head was replaced in.

A Missing Piece in which Jigsaw?

Although the EU’s training mission makes sense in theory, it is unclear what competitive advantage it has over other projects that can draw on more experience of working in the maritime sector and in the region. The logo of Nestor projects the mission as the missing piece of the counter-piracy jigsaw. Yet, the mission still has to define find its operational space and how it actually fills a gap in counter-piracy and becomes part of the existing set of capacity-building programs. Notably, the more recent approach to embed Nestor advisors within regional maritime security agencies, rather than offering training through workshops appears promising in this regards. The time for the mission is perhaps still to come. It could fill the gap that will start to emerge once the funds for the counter-piracy of the IMO and UNODC start to dry out, which can be expected for 2014. Then Nestor could ensure the sustainability of the infrastructure put in place by IMO and UNODC. This might for instance include continuing support for the successful Djibouti Code of Conduct process, which, if carefully maintained, can become a cornerstone in the long-term maritime security architecture of the region. This will, however, require that Nestor’s mandate, which currently runs until 2014, is extended, and that the mission can prove that it can make a difference already now.

Literature and further reading

Bueger, Christian and Mohanvir Singh Saran. 2012. Finding a Regional Solution to Piracy: Is the Djibouti Process the Answer? Blog, August 2012,

Germond, Basil. 2011. “The EU ’s Security and the Sea : Defining a Maritime Security Strategy.” European Security (January 2012): 37–41.

Germond, Basil. 2013. “The European Union at the Horn of Africa: The Contribution of Critical Geopolitics to Piracy Studies.” Global Policy 4 (1) (February 27): 80–85.

Germond, Basil, and Michael Smith. 2009. “Re-Thinking European Security Interests and the ESDP: Explaining the EU’s Anti-Piracy Operation.” Contemporary Security Policy 30 (3): 573–593.

House of Commons. 2013. European Scrutiny Committee – Eighth Report of Session 2013-14, 22 FCO (35109) The EU and the Horn of Africa, 3 July 2013, London: House of Commons.

EUCAP Nestor. 2013. Webpage, available at


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