9th Mar 2021

EU ready for military operations within weeks

The European Union will start its first military operations within "weeks", French President Jacques Chirac said after the EU summit in Copenhagen. Following a landmark agreement between NATO and the EU the Union will for the first time deploy its own soldiers in the Balkan republic of Macedonia possibly by February.

Turkey and Greece held back agreement for years

Reservations by Turkey and Greece held back the agreement for two years on the so-called "Berlin Plus" agreement that would allow the Europeans access to NATO's planning and military assets for missions independent of the US-led military alliance. The reservations were lifted in relation to the Copenhagen Summit.

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The EU is due to have its 60 000-strong rapid reaction force capable of deployment within 60 days for peace-keeping and crisis management operations up and running in 2003. European troops already make up the majority of the 17 000-strong S-For peacekeeping force in Bosnia, but it is still under NATO command. Some 500 officers, wearing their national uniforms but with an EU insignia will take over police tasks for from the UN in Bosnia already 1 January.

Readiness to take over military operations confirmed

The Copenhagen Summit went one step further when confirming the Union’s "readiness to take over the military operation" in FYROM as soon as possible in consultation with NATO. So far the EU tasks have been defined as peacekeeping and crises management, however in Copenhagen the texts for the first time mention directly "military operations".

Excluding Malta and Cyprus

Ankara won a pledge that EU crisis management operations would be open only to EU states that are NATO allies or partners – thereby excluding Malta and the divided island of Cyprus. However, the deal attached to the Summit conclusions as an annex II is not permanent. It is worded as follows:

"The fact that, as things stand at present, Cyprus and Malta will not take part in EU military operations conducted using NATO assets once they have become members of the EU will not, within the limits of the EU Security Regulations, affect the right of their representatives to participate and vote in EU institutions and bodies, including COPS, with regard to decisions which do not concern the implementation of such operations.

Likewise, their right to receive EU classified information, within the limits of the EU Security Regulations, shall not be affected, provided the EU classified information does not contain or refer to any classified NATO information."

COPS is the Political and Security Committee-PCS. The body in charge of the detail of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy, it's made up of ambassadors and usually meets twice a week in Brussels. It forwards guidelines to the Military Committee and receives military advice from it. During a military crisis it will control and direct operations under the authority of the Council.

EU strikes deal with NATO on security and defence

The EU will now have access to NATO military assets for its operations after both sides managed to reach a long sought-after agreement at the Copenhagen summit. This agreement will give added support to the EU when it takes over the NATO Amber Fox mission in Macedonia mid-2003.

EU starts security and defence missions in 2003

1 January 2003 will be an important milestone for the EU as it marks the start of its first operation under the European Security and Defence Policy – the EU Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moreover, following a landmark agreement between NATO and the EU earlier this month, the Union will for the first time deploy its own soldiers in the Balkan republic of Macedonia possibly by February 2003, taking over the NATO "Amber Fox" peace-keeping mission.


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