British and French Defence ministers met in London on Thursday to mark the signing of the tenth anniversary of the Saint-Malo declaration and to discuss the upcoming counter-piracy mission to the coast of Somalia.

French Defence Minister Hervé Morin was welcomed by British Secretary of State for Defence, John Hutton to mark the anniversary which saw the inception of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).

The anniversary also provided an ideal platform to discuss the latest ESDP counter-piracy mission, which will be led by the UK for the first time.

The operation, named ‘Op Atalanta’ is an EU response to the increased piracy in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia and is planned to begin on 8 December.

British Secretary of State for Defence John Hutton said that mission to tackle piracy is the latest example of the progress in European Defence in the last ten years and evidence of UK’s commitment to ESDP.

“The EU has powerful civilian and military resources as well as the most extensive diplomatic network in the world, and it is also the biggest donor of development funding in the world. This makes it uniquely placed to respond to instability,” said Hutton.

Hutton added that “the UK has welcomed the progress made on European defence by France during her presidency of the EU, particularly on helping to develop military capabilities and highlighting the importance of burden sharing.”

Since the signing of the Saint-Malo declaration, the EU has launched more than 20 civilian and military missions in three continents.

The key tasks of the latest operation to the Gulf of Aden will be to ensure the protection of World Food Programme and vulnerable shipping routes as well as providing deterrence by presence and surveillance.

By Daniel Garrun.