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Press Release
Luc Frieden: "If we cannot stabilise the Western Balkans, we will suffer the effects at home"

Date of release : 18-03-2005

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Event : Informal Meeting of Defence Ministers

After the first working session at the informal meeting of Ministers for Defence of the European Union, Luc Frieden, Minister for Defence, outlined the work dedicated to operation ALTHEA in Bosnia-Herzegovina:

"We have reviewed the situation in the Western Balkans, and more particularly the European Union’s  major operation of an essentially military nature which is being undertaken in Bosnia-Herzegovina. This is why I have invited General Reith, Operation Commander for ALTHEA. This operation began in December 2004. The European Union has been included in this NATO operation. This is a "Berlin+" operation, that is, a European Union operation in which we use certain NATO assets. The briefing that General Reith gave us, as well is the analysis by the Ministers, indicate that the operation is a great success. This is an important operation. Today we have 6300 people on the ground. The operation remains important because we must make a contribution to the stabilisation of this part of Europe. It is in the interest of this region, but also in our own interest, because of the close relationship between questions of external and internal security. If we cannot resolve the problems in that country by helping them, we will suffer the effects at home. Operation ALTHEA also includes aspects of the fight against criminality, all of which also makes it part of the stabilisation of this region of the world.

We discussed the future of this mission. The Dayton and Paris Accords on Bosnia-Herzegovina date back to 1995. That is 10 years already. The European Union has no intention of maintaining a permanent military presence in the region. Our intention is to help these countries make the transition to the rule of law, to find stability, and it will also be necessary to plan steps more oriented towards civil society: strengthening the police presence and the rule of law, reduction of military forces.

We are very satisfied with this mission, which is a test for the European Union. The fact that it has functioned well allows us to draw some lessons from this operation for other future interventions, and in the months to come we will see, in view of the changes in Bosnia, but also in the region, if it will be necessary to maintain operation ALTHEA at this level. For now it is functioning well and will remain in place in its current form."

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This page was last modified on : 18-03-2005

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