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Atalanta, the European Union's first naval operation, celebrates its 15th anniversary

Rota, Cádiz
November 24, 2023
  • The Chief of the Defense Staff, Admiral General Teodoro Esteban López Calderón, attends the handover ceremony of the Commander of the Operation

Operation Atalanta celebrated the 15th anniversary of its creation with a ceremony at the Rota Naval Base.

The event took place in conjunction with the handover of command from the current Commander, Vice Admiral José María Núñez Torrente, to the new Commander, Vice Admiral Ignacio Villanueva Serrano.

During the anniversary ceremony, recognition was paid to all the participating countries, as well as to the crews and personnel involved in the operation. The ceremony was presided over by the Chief of Defence Staff (JEMAD), Admiral General Teodoro Esteban López Calderón, representing the Chairman of the European Union Military Committee, General Robert Brieger. In addition to the JEMAD, the military and civilian authorities in attendance included the Admiral of the Fleet, Admiral Eugenio Díaz del Río Jáudenes, and the Chief of Staff of the Operations Command, Vice Admiral Íñigo de la Puente Mora-Figueroa.

The 'European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) Operation Atalanta', whose HQ is located in Rota since 29 March 2019, plays a crucial role in protecting maritime transit and maintaining stability in the northwest Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Since its inception in 2008, the operation has been an example of international cooperation, involving a total of 20 EU and non-EU countries.

It was at the end of 2008 that the Council of the European Union adopted Resolution 2008/851/CFSP, based on various UN resolutions, to establish the EU maritime military operation - Operation 'Atalanta' and contribute to the deterrence, prevention and repression of acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia. Over time, EUNAVFOR's mandate has been adapted to reflect the evolving situation in the region and the increased presence of the international community, with the aim of developing the Operation into a maritime security provider in the Indian Ocean.
During these 15 years, ATALANTA has faced various challenges, constantly adapting to the evolving threats in the region. During this time, Operation ATALANTA has protected more than 2000 World Food Programme vessels with a total of 3,200,000 tonnes of food and other aid distributed. In addition, 16 tonnes of narcotics have been seized and significant progress has been made against piracy in the area of operations.
The operation has been an effective tool of naval diplomacy, and has underlined the importance of international collaboration and the need to maintain an effective presence to prevent and combat illegal activities in the area of responsibility.