Thursday, 12 July 2007 15:00
The European Union’s Military Contribution to the Stabilisation and Integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the European Family of Nations
Althea is regarded by many as the Greek goddess of healing. In myth, Althea, mother of Meleager, was told by the Gods that her son would die as soon as a piece of wood on her fire was consumed. Althea took the wood from the fire, extinguished it and placed the wood in a chest to preserve her son’s life. With the fire in Bosnia and Herzegovina extinguished, Operation ALTHEA will now assist the healing of the country and all its peoples. Unlike the myth, the wood will never again be taken from the chest but will remain preserved, safely, forever.
Bosnia-Herzegovina, one of the 6 republics that made up the former Yugoslavia, entered a period of bitter war in 1992, a war that cost the lives of over 100,000 people. Finally in 1995, with the assistance of the International Community and NATO, the war was brought to an end with the signing, in Paris, of the Dayton Accords. The long road to restoring peace and prosperity in this war ravaged nation had begun.
The 2003 Thessaloniki Declaration confirmed that the future of the Western Balkans, of which Bosnia and Herzegovina is both a central and significant part, lies within the European Union. Operation ALTHEA is one facet of a comprehensive and coherent European Union commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It adds an extra dimension to the existing political engagement, assistance programmes and police and monitoring missions that are already underway.
ALTHEA is the third and largest military operation that the EU has embarked upon to date. The European Military Force, known as EUFOR, is a manifestation of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). From the ESDP has evolved the Common Foreign Security Policy (CFSP). The CFSP, in addition to the objective of strengthening the security of the Union in all ways, also has a prime objective of preserving peace and strengthening international security in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter.
On 2 December 2004, 9 years after the war ended, the European Union launched a military operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) entitled Operation ALTHEA*. This followed the decision by NATO to hand over its own peacekeeping mission that had maintained security in the region since the war ended.
The EU deployed a robust military force (EUFOR) at the same manpower levels as NATO’s SFOR (just under 7,000 troops) to ensure continued compliance with the Dayton/Paris Agreement and to contribute to a safe and secure environment (SASE) in BiH.
Original Force Structure
EUFOR troops were principally located in three main areas of the country:
Multi-National Task Force (North) – approx 1,300 personnel based in Tuzla
Multi- National Task Force (North West) – approx 1,000 personnel based in Banja Luka
Multi-National Task Force (South East) – approx 1,400 personnel based in Mostar
The EUFOR HQ element was based in Camp Butmir, Sarajevo along with an Integrated Police Unit (IPU) of approximately 500 personnel. In addition to these Force Levels, 2,000 troops were spread across various locations throughout BiH in Liaison and Observation Teams (LOTs)
In February 2007, troop levels had been decreased to around 1,600 after the European Council scrutinised the ongoing security situation in BIH and deemed that the force levels of EUFOR could be restructured. At the same time EUFOR increased its overall situational awareness within BIH by having integrated Liaison and Observation Teams (LOTs) within the BIH community. Following another restructuring process in 2012, EUFOR troop levels have been reduced to approximately 600 and the Force is now mainly focusing on capacity building and training of the Armed Forces BiH. An out-of-country Intermediate Reserve Force can be called upon on short notice to ensure the capacity to swiftly intervene in support of BiH Law Enforcement Agencies in order to maintain the safe and secure environment if needed.
*ALTHEA” was the Greek Goddess of healing.
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