Somali Pirates
The European Union is leading the fight against Somali pirates 2014Reuters

The European Union will take its fight against pirates to Somalia, as it assumes leadership of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia from the 1 January 2014.

"Pirate attacks over the past year have dropped by 95%, but the fight against piracy is not yet won. It is vital that the international community continues to work together to stamp out piracy and consolidate the gains we have already made," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Maciej Popowski, Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) will serve as EU chairperson.

The chairmanship of the Contact Group is a joint operation of the EEAS and the European Commission and succeeds the chairmanship of the United States that led efforts during 2013.

The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) was established on 14 January 2009 by UN Security Council Resolution 1851 (2008) to facilitate the actions among more than 60 states and organisations to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Since its creation, the CGPCS has reduced the number of pirate attacks and hijackings, according to the EC.

While piracy off the coast off the Horn of Africa has declined in recent years, the violence has shifted to the West coast.

The number of hostages has gone down from more than 700 in 2011 to around 50 today, off Somalia.

Many Francophone nations have been especially affected, and that has prompted France to ramp up its naval presence in the area.

In February a French-owned Luxemburg tanker was hijacked by suspected Nigerian pirates off the Ivory Coast while a French sailor was seized by pirates in June off the coast of Togo.