Italy to command peace-keeping force in Macedonia

The Italian Defence Minister, Antonio Martino, stated that Italy was asked to take over Germany’s command of the international peace-keeping force in Macedonia. EU Foreign Ministers decided at their meeting in Cáceres, Spain, on 9 February, that the Union should take over the responsibility for the Macedonian peace force from NATO.

Mr Martino said that Italy was ready to send 350-400 soldiers
to Macedonia. The NATO-led troops protect international observers
monitoring the peace process in the Balkan country. The
peace-keeping force will also be responsible for supervising the
return of refugees.


European leaders agreed on a common defence strategy at the
Cologne Summit on 3 June 1999. The 15 Member States of the EU
formally decided to create a rapid reaction force (RRF) of 60,000
men at the Nice European Council in December 2000. The RRF should
be operational from 2003 on, concentrating on humanitarian relief,
rescue, peace-keeping and crisis-management tasks independently of
NATO. The military force will be backed up by a 5,000-strong EU
police corps.

The European security and defence policy (ESDP)
was declared operational at the European Council of Laeken in
December 2001. However, most defence analysts are sceptical about
the ability of the EU to operate its defence policy due to a lack
of strategic capabilities.


The transfer of command over the Macedonia peace force from
NATO to the EU is expected to take place between June and September


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