The European Maritime Security Strategy (EUMSS)

10.3.2023, JOIN(2023) 8 final, European Commission, Joint Communication on the update of the EU Maritime Security Strategy and its Action Plan, "An enhanced EU Maritime Security Strategy for evolving maritime threats"

Maritime security is vital to the European Union (EU) and to its Member States. Together, the EU’s Member States form the largest combined exclusive economic zone in the world. The EU economy depends greatly on safe and secure oceans: over 80% of global trade is seaborne, about two-thirds of the world’s oil and gas supply is either extracted at sea or transported by sea1, and up to 99% of global data flows are transmitted through undersea cables.

To ensure effective ocean governance, to protect our oceans and seabeds, and to unlock the full potential of the sustainable blue economy, the global maritime domain must be secure. Since 2014, the European maritime security strategy (EUMSS) and action plan have provided the framework for addressing security challenges at sea.

The strategy has stimulated closer cooperation between civilian and military authorities, in particular through information exchange. It has helped promote rules-based governance at sea and has given a boost to international cooperation. It has strengthened the EU’s autonomy and capacity to respond to maritime security threats.

The EU plays an increasingly important role as a global maritime security provider, by conducting its own naval operations, e.g. Atalanta and Irini, implementing the Coordinated Maritime Presences (CMP) concept, and promoting maritime situational awareness and cooperating with a wide range of external partners.

In addition, the Copernicus maritime and border surveillance operational systems, implemented by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), provide spacebased observations, complementing the navigation services of Galileo satellites.

The overall strategic environment is experiencing drastic changes. Reshaped by the climate crisis and environmental degradation and aggravated by Russia’s illegal and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine, it demands more action from the EU as an international security provider.

In line with the EU Strategic Compass for Security and Defence, this update of the EUMSS and its action plan aims to respond to the new challenges. It is an opportunity to drive forward sustainable solutions to maritime security problems. It is also an opportunity to further enhance the EU’s role internationally and further secure the EU’s access to an increasingly contested maritime domain.

The updated EUMSS is a framework for the EU to take further action to protect its interests at sea, and to protect its citizens, values and economy. The aim is to promote international peace and security while adhering to the principle of sustainability and protecting biodiversity. The EU and its Member States will implement the updated strategy, in line with their respective competences.

Much has changed in the global geopolitical context since the European maritime security strategy was adopted in 2014, requiring new and enhanced action. The EU Threat Analysis demonstrates that the EU is facing an increase in threats and challenges, including in the maritime domain.

Strategic competition for power and resources is increasing. Threats are becoming increasingly complex and multi-layered, with some countries seeking to re-define the core tenets of the multilateral order, including through violations of national sovereignty and borders.

Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine has brought war back to Europe and created new dangers, as well as negative spill-over effects on maritime security and the European economy, impacting European citizens and businesses.

Maritime security is being challenged in many regions, including territorial and maritime disputes, competition for natural resources and threats to freedom of navigation and rights of innocent and transit passage. Such challenges create tensions in sea basins around the EU such as the Mediterranean, the Black and the Baltic Seas, exacerbated by Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine.

There has also been an increase in challenges to maritime security beyond Europe, namely in the Gulf of Guinea, the Gulf of Aden, the Strait of Hormuz, the Strait of Malacca, and in the South China Sea.

Some non-EU countries are increasing their capabilities and assertiveness at sea and are taking unilateral action. This has included the use of force or breaching other countries’ national sovereignty. These actions challenge the rule of law and the international order based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Indo-Pacific region, where the EU has Outermost Regions (Indian Ocean) and Overseas Countries and Territories (Pacific), has become an area of intense geopolitical competition. The display of force and increased tensions in regions such as the South and East China Sea and the Taiwan Strait affect global security and have a direct impact on European security and prosperity. Maintaining stability and security along key shipping routes - such as the Malacca and Singapore Straits, the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean - means that the EU and its Member States need to expand their presence and action in these regions, in line with the EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.


The updated maritime security strategy will help protect EU's interests listed above, from the evolving and growing maritime security threats. To do so, the EU will step up action under six strategic objectives:

1. Step up activities at sea.

The EU Strategic Compass calls for further strengthening the EU’s engagement on maritime security. Under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) framework, Operation Atalanta has been operating in the Western Indian Ocean since 2008. Given its successful track record, Operation Atalanta has seen its mandate expanded from the fight against piracy into a broader maritime security operation and it is further strengthening links and synergies with the European Maritime Awareness Mission in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASOH).

In the Mediterranean Sea, Operation Irini has as its primary task to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya. This is a direct EU contribution to peace and stability in the Mediterranean, enhancing maritime security. In line with the Integrated Approach, the EU also contributes to enhancing maritime security by providing training and capacity building for partners through civilian CSDP missions, such as the European Union Capacity Building Mission (EUCAP) Somalia.

In 2021, the EU introduced the new concept of the Coordinated Maritime Presences (CMP). This flexible new tool aims to boost the EU’s collective engagement on maritime security by making best use of Member States’ naval assets in areas that are of strategic interest for the EU. In the context of CMP, the EU should step up the fight against illegal and illicit activities at sea, including drug trafficking. Based on the experience gained through CMP implementation in the Gulf of Guinea and in the North-Western Indian Ocean (including in the Red Sea), the EU will consider new maritime areas of interest where to implement this concept. The establishment of new maritime areas of interest would increase the EU’s situational awareness, partnerships, and strategic culture as a maritime security actor.

The EU Strategic Compass also underlines the importance of ensuring readiness and interoperability among EU Member States’ naval forces, and calls for the EU to conduct live exercises in all domains. The EU will therefore launch an annual naval exercise to boost readiness, foster interoperability and tackle the evolving threats to maritime security.

2. Cooperate with partners.

The EU has already forged relations and synergies on maritime security with multilateral and regional organisations both at global and at regional level (e.g. with the UN, IMO, NATO, AU and ASEAN) and with several non-EU countries in particular in the Gulf of Guinea and the Indo-Pacific.

The EU and its Member States have also developed international cooperation through bilateral dialogues, port calls and live exercises, notably in the Indo-Pacific region, e.g. with Australia, Japan, India, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Oman and Singapore. Operations Atalanta and Irini participate in mechanisms for sharing awareness and for multilateral engagement, including Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) Conferences. The European Union also provides significant support for maritime security under its development cooperation, humanitarian aid, and foreign policy support measures.

In the Western Indian Ocean, the EU supports a regional maritime architecture based on information fusion and operation centres in Madagascar and Seychelles, as well as on the Djibouti Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.

Similarly, in the Gulf of Guinea, the EU supports regional organisations and coastal states implementing their own maritime security strategies, strengthening maritime law enforcement and justice, enhancing port security and safety, increasing maritime domain awareness and information sharing under the Yaoundé Architecture. In the broader Atlantic Ocean, the EU supports the fight against illicit activities in cooperation with partners, in particular the fight against drug trafficking.

In a challenging geopolitical context, the EU should step up cooperation with partners in its neighbourhood and in other strategically important maritime areas. This is particularly important in light of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. The EU will intensify its cooperation with NATO on maritime security, building on the results achieved and in line with the third Joint Declaration on EU-NATO cooperation of January 2023.

In the Indo-Pacific, the EU should increase the exchange of experience with partners on maritime security through the project “Enhancing Security Cooperation in and with Asia” (ESIWA) and bilateral dialogues and by seeking to be granted observer status (‘Dialogue partner’) in the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). The EU should also deepen its cooperation with like-minded countries and organisations including international and regional fora on maritime affairs.

3. Lead in maritime domain awareness.

Sound maritime domain awareness is vital to ensuring that competent authorities can swiftly detect the growing and evolving threats affecting the EU and respond to them effectively. The EU will lead in maritime domain awareness by enhancing information collection and exchange among different maritime sectors33, and facilitating information sharing between Member States. At the international level, the EU will continue its work of enhancing Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) capacities of partner countries through information sharing and capacity building, especially in the Gulf of Guinea and in the Indo-Pacific.

Since 2014, the EU and its Member States have made significant progress in acquiring and exchanging information in the maritime domain by developing and connecting the sectorspecific systems used by different authorities involved in maritime surveillance. In particular, the EU has developed the Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE).

Based on voluntary participation, the CISE will facilitate real-time information sharing between different authorities responsible for coast guard functions, including the military, connecting concerned authorities within and across Member States. On the basis of the EU CISE2020 research project, in April 2019 the Commission launched the transitional phase of CISE, entrusting its coordination to EMSA, in close cooperation with the Member States. Building on the transitional phase, the Commission intends to launch the operational phase in 2024 with the support of EMSA, subject to the agreement of its Administrative Board.

4. Manage risks and threats.

In line with the Strategic Compass, the EU and its Member States will improve their collective ability to defend their security and increase their resilience and preparedness for maritime security challenges, including hybrid and cyber threats. The EU and its Member States should be able to react quickly, with coordinated civilian and military capabilities.

Fighting climate change and environmental degradation are among the EU's top political priorities that are reflected in its external action through many thematic or geographical strategies such as Global Gateway or the Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, as well as through EU diplomatic outreach and EU Climate Diplomacy.

The EU has already taken significant steps to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, and will take further action on problems interlinked with climate change, environmental degradation and security.

The High Representative and the Commission will present a Joint Communication on the nexus between climate change, environmental degradation and security and defence in mid2023. It will include, inter alia, proposals for tools assessing the causes and consequences of climate change and environmental degradation on the maritime sector, on maritime infrastructure, as well as on natural and man-made features of coastal areas, including as regards early warning, evidence-based research and satellite imagery (e.g. through Copernicus programme).

5. Enhance capabilities.

To promote its maritime security interests, the EU should accelerate the development of both civilian and military capabilities, involving industry as appropriate. Research &Development (R&D) on civilian aspects of European maritime security is included in the Civil Security for Society cluster of the EU Horizon Europe programme.

Current and upcoming R&D will support capability development at the EU level, including protection of critical maritime infrastructure, management of underwater threats, preparedness and response to anthropogenic and natural disasters, security of maritime passenger transport, and management of UXO, involving industry where appropriate.

In the area of defence, Member States should develop a full spectrum of maritime capabilities, making full use of the scope for cooperation under related EU initiatives. In particular, they should focus on boosting capabilities to ensure EU surface superiority, to project power at sea, to enable underwater control and to contribute to air defence.

The upcoming revision of the Capability Development Plan will also draw on the lessons learnt from Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. For instance, EDA will explore the key technologies required to manage maritime unmanned drone swarms and to protect critical seabed infrastructure.

As called for by the Strategic Compass and in line with the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) national and multinational projects should aim to both overcome fragmentation in critical assets such as corvette-size vessels and on-board systems and improve the operational effectiveness of individual platforms.

Several opportunities for cooperation identified in the 2020 CARD cycle have led to Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) projects in unmanned maritime systems, e.g. the Medium-Size Semi-Autonomous Surface Vehicle. The European Defence Fund will assess research and development projects, for example on maritime situational awareness, maritime surveillance capabilities, critical maritime infrastructure protection and underwater capabilities.

6. Educate and train.

A high level of specialised education, skills and training is indispensable for the EU to be equipped to tackle present and future maritime security challenges.

Tackling new hybrid and cyber threats requires operators with strong digital skillsets and specific re-skilling and upskilling programmes.

Solutions in the form of exchanges between military training programmes, joint training programmes between the navies of EU Member States and between different institutions will boost interoperability and help the EU respond to new threats in a more effective, coordinated and inclusive way.

As part of the Practical handbook on European cooperation on coast guard functions, a training catalogue has been created, covering all courses run by EU Agencies across all maritime domains. The handbook will be updated on a rolling basis in line with needs and developments.

The successful European Coast Guard Functions Training Academy Network project (ECGFA NET) and the harmonised training course on the coast guard function should continue, especially the exchange programme, which involves neighbouring countries and regional cooperation through a dedicated project implemented by EFCA in close cooperation with EMSA and Frontex.

EMSA is also developing a course on maritime cybersecurity. The Hybrid Centre of Excellence in Helsinki (Hybrid CoE) organises courses and conferences on hybrid threats affecting the maritime domain. Gender equality and the empowerment of women in the EU maritime security sector should be supported, promoting access to high level technical education and training for women.

The European Security and Defence College (ESDC) provides EU-level training and education for both civilian and military personnel to promote a common understanding of maritime security challenges and raise awareness about the increasing role of EU in this field. With support from the ESDC, six European naval academies are currently working on the content of a common, international naval semester.

10.3.2023, JOIN(2023) 8 final, European Commission, Joint Communication on the update of the EU Maritime Security Strategy and its Action Plan, "An enhanced EU Maritime Security Strategy for evolving maritime threats"

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