EU military operation in Macedonia in doubt

The ongoing Greek-Turkish dispute over the EU-Nato defence agreement could endanger the first EU military operation, planned to take place in Macedonia in September.

The Spanish Presidency hopes that a deal between the EU and
Nato could be reached by the Seville summit in June. The EU needs
access to Nato's military assets and planning capabilities in order
to conduct its future military operations. The EU plans to set up a
60,000-strong force by mid-2003, but it lacks vital logistics,
intelligence and airlift.

The Macedonia military operation, "Amber Fox",
was supposed to be taken over from Nato by the EU's new Rapid
Reaction Force. However, the dispute between Greece and Turkey over
the EU-Nato agreement has endangered the operation.

After having blocked the EU-Nato agreement for
two years, Turkey, a Nato but not an EU member, agreed with Britain
and the United States in December 2001 to lift its objections after
receiving guarantees that EU operations would not endanger Ankara's
interests in the region.

Greece, an EU and Nato member, now demands the
same assurances, stating its historical problems with Turkey as the
reason. The issue has gained importance ahead of the November
municipal elections in Greece.

The Greek Prime Minister, Costas Simitis, has
warned that giving a non-member Turkey a say on the Union's defence
policy would undermine the EU's autonomy and principles. He
reiterated that Greece would veto the deal in its present form.


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