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This paper critically assesses the EU’s anti-piracy operation Atalanta in the light of the protection of Union citizens. The main question is to which extent a Union citizen threatened by pirates off the coast of Somalia could rely on the promise of civis europaeus sum. The paper discusses the various legal aspects pertaining to the forceful protection of EU citizens in international law, EU constitutional law and the operational parameters of Atalanta. It argues that within the particular framework of the international effort to combat piracy, the protection of citizens by military force could be legal. Moreover, the protection of citizens outside the EU forms now one of the legally-binding general objectives of the Union. Yet, this objective is not reiterated in the operational mandate, which creates tension and confusion between the general objective and the CSDP instrument. The paper concludes that the mandate of Atalanta, by focussing entirely on universal objectives, is constitutionally incomplete and shows that the external dimension of Union citizenship is still underdeveloped

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