The PSI Mediterranean Initiative

17.10.2018 - Article

The PSI Mediterranean Initiative

The Mediterranean is an important sea route accounting for approximately 30% of the world sea traffic and thus a strategic region for counter-proliferation policies. As a major seaway between Asia, the Middle-East and Europe, this geographic area has become a strategic road for proliferators, making use of regional instability and the emergence of non-state actors engaged in terrorism.

In this regard, France and Germany proposed at the High Level Political Meeting in 2013, to gather all Mediterranean stakeholders, whether they were PSI endorsees or not, to develop a PSI initiative specially focused on Mediterranean challenges. The main objectives of this initiative are to discuss the proliferation risks specific to this region, to strengthen cooperation between all concerned actors and to improve our collective capacity to prevent proliferation.
The PSI Mediterranean Initiative is designed as a flexible cooperation at the regional level. It does not aim to duplicate any international mechanism. Events are periodically organized on a voluntary basis in order to encourage a smooth flow of exchange of information among the participants. Germany and France hosted the two first events in 2015.

The first seminar held in Frankfurt on June 15th and 16th 2015 was designed to help participants identify the main features of proliferation in the Mediterranean region, assess regional challenges in counter-proliferation and strengthen the dialogue on proliferation issues amongst PSI and non-PSI states of the region. Over the course of the two day meeting, participants agreed that the Mediterranean Sea has become more volatile for proliferation due to regional instability and the emergence of non-state actors engaged in terrorism and smuggling.

Based on real case scenarios, the table top exercise in Paris on October 15th and 16th 2015 allowed participants to put in practice concrete methods and tools and emphasized the challenge of addressing proliferation threats on very tight deadlines while taking into account the time and space constraints posed by shipping routes. Discussions in plenary and group sessions enabled the attending States to develop their respective knowledge of the political, legal and operational capacities of regional States in combating the shipment of illicit cargo.

Italy hosted the third event in Rome on November 29th and 30th 2016. This table-top exercise aimed at assessing the responsiveness at the top level of the participating countries in two fictional scenarios of smuggling of weapons of mass destruction materials, while taking into account other aspects such as of migration management and norms protecting the environment. The underlying operational concept, common for both scenarios, was how, when and where the interdiction of the non-cooperative ship should occur, in compliance with the norms and practices of international law and in a context of international cooperation among like-minded countries endorsing the PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles.

In continuity with the 2016 Rome event, Italy organized the first live exercise - MED SEA WOLF - in the framework of the PSI Mediterranean Initiative, taking place in the bay of Catania (Sicily) on September 19th and 20th 2018. The exercise at sea started with a maritime interdiction to carry out a boarding operation on a vessel suspected to transport weapons of mass destruction related materials. The vessel was diverted to the Port of Catania and handed-over to law enforcement authorities, who conducted a detailed check of the suspected vessel documentation, cargo and crew. A specific table-top exercise covered activities at land regarding the off-load operation of the cargo and the judiciary follow-up of the traffickers. MED SEA WOLF demonstrated in practice how inter-agency cooperation is strongly needed to tackle each phase of the process to interdict vessels, seize and dispose illegal cargo and hold traffickers accountable.

Considering the complex security environment of the region, the PSI Mediterranean Initiative has so far played a critical role in sharing expertise and best practices with events aimed at building robust capacities among partners for combating illegal trafficking of items of proliferation concern and conducting interdiction operations under a cooperative framework.

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