All it took this month was a Spanish president of the European Union to visibly hobble the pirates. An international fleet of warships is attacking and destroying pirate vessels closer to the shores of East Africa. The strategy, combined with more aggressive confrontations further out to sea, has dealt the criminals a setback, officials and experts told the AP. The new tactics by the European Union naval force comes after Spain — which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, and whose fishing vessels are frequent pirate targets — encouraged more aggressive pursuit of pirates and the coalition obtained more aircraft and other military assets, said the force commander. The EU Naval Force attacked 12 groups of pirate vessels, which normally includes several skiffs and a mother vessel, this month, more than last year. Half of those attacks were on the high seas and half close to shore, reflecting the new strategy to intercept pirates before they reach deep water and international shipping lanes. With calmer waters, March is typically a busy month for pirate attacks. But only two ships have been taken in the first two weeks of the month, down from four hijackings over the same period last year. The number of unsuccessful attacks also dropped. About half of last year’s 47 successful hijackings happened during March, April, and May. The commander said an improved level of co-operation between EU forces, NATO and U.S. naval forces based out of Bahrain is also helping.