Skip to comments.EU expected to give final go-ahead for first military operation
Posted on 03/18/2003 9:05:01 AM PST by a_Turk
BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union (news - web sites)'s first military operation was expected to be formally approved Tuesday before its deployment in Macedonia this month to replace NATO (news - web sites)'s peacekeepers.
Foreign ministers from the 15 EU countries meeting here Tuesday ahead of a prime ministers' summit later this week were expected to give formal approval to the force after months of tough diplomacy.
The EU force of 320 soldiers and around 80 civilians support personnel is expected to start its mission March 31.
Despite the small scale of the mission, it is seen as a vital test for the EU's defense ambitions, which include taking on the much larger peacekeeping operation in Bosnia next year and a rapid reaction force of 60,000 troops for humanitarian operations.
The EU is also keen to show its 15 members can make progress on security and foreign policy issues, regardless of their deep divisions over Iraq (news - web sites).
"I would like to see that the European Union countries will come through this difficult moment ... so that the foreign policy of the European Union is not a casualty of this crisis," said Javier Solana, the EU's high representative for foreign policy.
European nations also stress the importance of remaining engaged in the Balkans while the focus of world attention switches to Iraq. Solana told reporters the assassination last week of Serbia's Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic underscored the need to fight instability in the region.
In Macedonia, a truce between government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels and overseen by NATO peacekeepers has held since 2001. However the Balkan country remains tense, with occasional flare-ups of violence.
NATO formally approved the handover of the mission to the EU Monday, four days after the two organizations signed an agreement to exchange classified information.
The EU's military plans were held up for months when Turkey one of eight alliance members not in the EU refused to allow the EU's military wing to have to have (unfettered and guaranteed) access to such NATO backup as planning, intelligence and airlift(, etc. - in other words, Clinton hands NATO over to the EU).
Turkey eventually lifted its objections in December after (extreme US and EU pressure and) a pledge the EU military would not be used against its interests (Trust the French..).
Turkey is expected to be among 14 non-EU nations to send small contingents to serve in Macedonia under the EU flag. Canada, Iceland, Norway and 10 Eastern European nations will also take part.
The biggest contribution will be from France. French Brig. Gen. Pierre Maral will command the force on the ground, reporting to its overall commander, German Adm. Rainer Feist, who also serves as second-in-command for NATO troops in Europe.
The salivating midgets..