The European Union will assume the chairmanship of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) for a year from the 1st of January 2014, it was announced Monday.
An EU statement announcing the development said the Contact Group will be chaired on behalf of the European bloc by Maciej Popowski, Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS).
The chairmanship of the Contact Group is a joint endeavor of the EEAS and the European Commission and will continue the work carried out in 2013 under the chairmanship of the United States.
Noting that the number of hostages has gone down from more than 700 in 2011 to around 50 today, the European Union reiterated its strong commitment to bringing "this number down to zero: zero ships and zero seafarers in the hands of Somali pirates."
"Pirate attacks over the past year have dropped by 95%, but the fight against piracy is not yet won. It is vital that the international community continues to work together to stamp out piracy and consolidate the gains we have already made," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was quoted as saying in the statement.
The European bloc said it is looking forward to working with all stakeholders in the region and with the international community to bring the fight against Somali piracy to an end. The intent reflects the strategic framework and broader objectives set out during the Conference on a New Deal for Somalia in Brussels on 16 September 2013.
"The eradication of piracy will only be achieved on Somali soil and by the Somali people but the international community needs to keep focus and maintain momentum. As chair of the CGPCS the EU will not lose sight of the humanitarian cost of piracy. Hijacked crews and seafarers that have been taken hostage have suffered the most," the statement added.
The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) was established on 14 January 2009 pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1851 (2008) to facilitate the coordination of actions among more than 60 states and organizations to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia.
Since its creation, the CGPCS through increased coordination and information sharing among states, private sector (e.g. shipping industry, insurance companies) and non-governmental organizations has contributed to a marked reduction in the number of pirate attacks and hijackings.