EU troops in Macedonia no longer needed?

The Macedonian Foreign Minister, Slobodan Casule, has stated that Macedonia no longer needs the European Union peace-keeping troops.

The EU plans to assume the command over the NATO-led peace-keeping operation in Macedonia in the autumn. However, these plans could be undermined by the persisting dispute with Turkey which has been blocking an EU-NATO agreement for two years. Under this deal, the EU could use NATO's military assets and planning capabilities.

Mr Casule told the Austrian newspaperDer Standardthat Macedonia was stable, and pleaded for the end of the international peace-keeping mission after parliamentary elections on 15 September. The September elections are the last stage in the implementation of a peace agreement between Macedonians and ethnic Albanians. The agreement was concluded in August 2001 after months of fighting between government forces and an Albanian guerrilla group, the Albanian National Liberation Army, which invaded parts of Macedonia from Kosovo.

The foreign minister recognised that "the terrorism is not dead" in Macedonia. However, skirmishes on the border will not endanger his country's stability, he assured. He added that organised crime will be fought by economic structures.

The Balkan region is plagued by drugs trade and people trafficking, especially prostitution rings run by local mafias. Mr Casule recommends join border patrols with the neighbouring countries to tackle this problem.


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