EU prepares to take over peace-keeping mission in Macedonia

The defence ministers of the 15 EU Member States discussed preparations for taking over the command of the international peace-keeping force in Macedonia later this year.

At their informal meeting in Zaragoza on 23 March, the ministers agreed to continue looking for a solution that will enable a formal agreement to be reached with NATO. The agreement should enable the EU to carry out peacekeeping missions using NATO resources.

The EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, said that the EU will need this accord before taking over the command of NATO’s mission in Macedonia this autumn.

The ministers also dealt with the issue of closer cooperation between the European armaments industries, deemed necessary to overcome the region’s serious lack of military capability. The target date for a full readiness of the EU Rapid Reaction Force is 2003, but some EU diplomats believe that it will not be achieved before 2012.

The ministers agreed there was a need for restructuring, standardisation and harmonisation in the area of defence.

 

The Spanish Defence Minister, Federico Trillo, underlined that an effective implementation of the Common Security and Defence policy will require more funding.

The NATO Secretary-General, Lord George Robertson, who was invited to the Zaragoza meeting, warned the EU defence ministers that Europe faced a real risk of continuing military weakness.

 

EU leaders declared the common defence policy operational at the Laeken European Council in December 2001 despite the absence of an agreement with NATO to use its military equipment and planning capabilities. Greece blocked the agreement between Britain and Turkey on the European rapid reaction force in December, warning against giving Turkey a say on EU defence issues.

The 15 EU Member States formally decided to create a rapid reaction force (RRF) of 60,000 men at the Nice European Council in December 2000. The force should be operational as of 2003, and should concentrate on humanitarian relief, peace-keeping and crisis-management tasks independently of NATO.

 

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