SEYCHELLES AND EU SIGN S.O.F.A
Seychelles and the European Union have signed a Status of Forces Agreement this morning which established the legal status of foreign military and civilian personnel participating in the framework of the EU Military Operation Atalanta. This Agreement will provide legal basis to the deployment of the European Union-led Forces (EUNAVFOR) units and personnel in the territory of the Republic of Seychelles.
This agreement follows long and intense negotiations between both Seychelles and the EU delegations locally comprising of British High Commissioner H.E. Matthew Forbes (EU local Presidency) and French Ambassador H.E. Philippe Delacroix.
The signature of the Status of Forces Agreement with EU agreement will formally authorize EUNAVFOR units and personnel to pursue pirates and armed robbers from the high seas to the territorial sea, the archipelagic and internal waters of Seychelles and to use necessary force, including the right to arrest and detain persons. On the other hand, the agreement makes provisions for the usual privileges and immunities to the EUNAVFOR personnel and units such as exemption from visa regulations and freedom of movement within our territory as per the norms of international military agreements.
The SOFA also builds on an exchange of letters between Minister Morgan, and Mr. Javier Solana, Secretary General/ High representative of the Council of the European Union on the subject of the modalities for the arrest, prosecution and transfer of persons involved in piracy. The SOFA is a further concrete step by the European Union in ensuring that the appropriate support is provided to the Republic of Seychelles in the fight against piracy.
The EU SOFA was signed on behalf of the Seychelles government by Mr. Joel Morgan, Minister for Environment, Natural resources and Transport while H.E. Matthew Forbes, the British High Commissioner to Seychelles, signed on behalf of EU in the presence of Belgian Minister of Defence Mr. Pieter de Crem and French Ambassador H.E Philippe Delacroix.
The Minister for Environment, Natural resources and Transport Mr. Joel Morgan stated that “this agreement clearly establishes the formal framework for military cooperation between Seychelles and the European Union. Seychelles is fully committed to fighting the scourge of piracy. This agreement is a future tool in strengthening our capacity to this fight.”
The British High Commissioner Matthew Forbes welcomed the agreement saying, “this is an important moment in cooperation between EUNAVFOR and the Seychelles. The EU is determined to fight piracy in the Indian Ocean and recognizes that the Seychelles has a vital role to play. The deterrent effect of capturing pirates and bringing them to justice is crucial if we are to bring this problem under control. There are those that would say there are risks to the Seychelles in working with the international community but is absolutely clear that this country is already a target for these attacks and it must stand with its friends and fight this scourge to protect its people and its economy. Together we can make a difference.”
The Status of Forces Agreement with EU also follows a similar agreement signed with US and France to enable enhanced surveillance activities against piracy.