DEAUVILLE, France (October 2,2008) - Most EU states support a gradual withdrawal and role change for the EU military mission in Bosnia, the French Defense Minister said yesterday.
"One or two countries back the maintenance of the forces," French Defense Minister Hervé Morin said after discussions among the 27 EU defense ministers in Deauville, France, but "generally the idea taking shape is for the gradual end of the ALTHEA mission and the transformation of this mission."
EU officials say the countries that favor keeping the mission unchanged are Slovakia, Italy and Greece.The diplomats say the present EU force in Bosnia will likely be replaced by a civilian operation.
Morin said most military operations had been completed, but there was still a need for military advisers and trainers.
"The military objectives have been fulfilled, there is no reason whatsoever to maintain the mission", Morin told reporters after chairing a meeting of EU defense ministers in Deauville, France.
French officials said there was a consensus to seek proposals to replace the current mission with one more civilian in nature. They said one scenario could be the provision of a rapid reaction force able to intervene in the event of a deterioration of the situation.
The European Union has a force of about 2,200 troops in Bosnia known as Eufor Althea. The peacekeepers deployed in 2004, taking over from a NATO force. Last November, the UN Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the force for another year.
A formal decision on the matter is not expected before November 10, when EU defense ministers hold a formal summit in Brussels.