EU may send force to Macedonia

The European Union’s special envoy to Macedonia,
François Léotard, on Wednesday (5 September)
suggested the EU send a force to replace NATO’s 4,800
multinational force after their 30-day mission ends. If the
proposal is accepted by EU Member States, it would be the first
deployment of a European military force independent of the US
in the Balkans.

EU Foreign ministers will meet this weekend, 8-9 September,
at an informal meeting in Genval, Belgium to discuss the
plan.

The EU force will need to be invited by
the Macedonians.

 

A senior EU diplomat said: "This is not EU policy. This is
Léotard's private view. The whole issue of the
follow-up to Essential Harvest [NATO's mission in
Macedonia] has yet to be decided."

France and Germany expressed their
strong support for the NATO mission in Macedonia and are
confident that the mission would succeed by the 26
September deadline. Nevertheless, they noted that they were
willing to extend the mission beyond the deadline if
necessary.

According to Frankfurter Rundschau, Mr.
Schroeder said he hopes to obtain France's support for
continued international presence in Macedonia after the
NATO deadline, under a mandate from the United Nations. He
said he would present this proposal to EU foreign ministers
at the informal meeting in Genval.

On Wednesday (6 September), NATO
reiterated it has no plans to extend its mission beyond the
26 September deadline.

 

At the Cologne Summit on 3 June 1999, European leaders
agreed on a common defence strategy. Their stated desire to
incorporate the dormant Western European Union into the EU
by the end of the year 2000 has been all but achieved by
the Marseilles Declaration of November 2000.

The 15 member states of the EU recently
reached an agreement on the establishment of a rapid
reaction force (RRF) of 60,000 men. It is envisaged that
this force will be capable of operating in the field for up
to one year dealing with crises such as that which occurred
in Kosovo. The formal adoption of the decision to create
the rapid reaction force was taken at the Nice European
Council (December 7-9 2000).

 

The Macedonian parliament is due to resume its debate today
(6 September) on whether to back constitutional changes
needed to save a Western-brokered peace plan that could
pave the way for a fresh round of disarmament by ethnic
Albanian rebels.

 

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