By Agnes Szucs
BRUSSELS (AA) - Eight European Union member states have decided to set up a naval surveillance mission in the Strait of Hormuz, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced Monday after a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers.
The initiative came from France, whose government stressed the need for action due to “rising instability and insecurity” in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz “which resulted in numerous maritime and non-maritime incidents.”
The French Foreign Ministry said the situation “has been affecting the freedom of navigation and security of European and non-European vessels and crews” and “has been jeopardizing trade and energy supplies.”
The Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Germany and Greece decided to join the “coalition of the willing,” making it possible for EU member states to take further foreign policy steps without the unanimous support of the entire bloc.
“Europe is taking back control,” France’s top diplomat Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters after the meeting.
“Europe is not only able to make its voice heard but shows that it indeed has the tools to act.”
Earlier this month, the U.K. announced it was sending two warships to the Persian Gulf in response to rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran after the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.
Last year, EU member states rejected a proposal by the U.S. on establishing a joint mission in the region despite several incidents between Iranian and British vessels and threats by Tehran to close the Strait of Hormuz.
Borrell pointed out that the European-led mission is different from the American initiative and is an important “contribution to de-escalation in the region as it is to ensure a safe navigation environment.”
France, Greece, Denmark and the Netherlands have already pledged concrete operational support while the United Arab Emirates will host the headquarters of the operations.