Spain to take over UK-led EU mission after Brexit: Diplomats

BRUSSELS: Spain is set to take over Britain’s command of an EU maritime mission that combats Somali pirates next year as Madrid seeks a bigger military role after Brexit, EU diplomats and officials said.
Under the deal, Spain has also offered to help Italy in dealing with migrants crossing the Mediterranean, they said.
European Union foreign and defence ministers are expected to back the decision on Monday to hand command of the Atalanta mission off the Horn of Africa to Spain, with support from France, when Britain leaves the bloc in March.
As Europe’s biggest military power along with France, Britain is central to European security efforts but London cannot continue to lead EU missions post-Brexit, EU and British negotiators agreed in March.
Madrid plans to run Atalanta from the Rota naval base in southern Spain, replacing the Northwood site outside London. France’s naval base at Brest will also be involved.
Italy had also sought command of Atalanta, which also protects food shipments to Somali refugees, and offered to run it alongside its command of the EU naval force in the Mediterranean.
The EU needs a formal decision by the end of June because moving the command will take 40 weeks and must be in place on March 30, 2019, the day after Britain leaves, according to an EU document seen by Reuters.
“We have reached a compromise,” an EU diplomat involved in the discussions said.
Two other diplomats and officials said Spain had offered Italy more naval support in combating migrant smuggling in the Mediterranean as part of the deal.
Rome has repeatedly complained that it is getting little help from other EU states in dealing with migrants crossing from Libya. — Reuters