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Friday, 13 December, 2002, 23:27 GMT
EU gets its military fist
S-for soldiers
The EU force could replace S-For as early as next year
Nato has approved a deal on military partnership with the European Union, paving the way for a European rapid reaction force.

We are now able to conduct operations where Nato does not want to get involved

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
Nato said the EU would now have access to Nato military planning facilities with immediate effect.

The accord - which had been held up for two years by Turkish opposition and the row with the EU over Turkey's accession talks - was forged at an EU summit in Copenhagen.

The EU now plans to set up the 60,000-strong force for peacekeeping operation in Macedonia and Bosnia, which could be operational as early as next year.

Correspondents say that the EU needs its own military capability if its foreign policy is to become more effective.

'Difficult negotiations'

The Nato Secretary General, George Robertson, hailed the deal as a vital breakthrough in relations between Nato and the EU.

British soldiers from the 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment
EU aims to be able to deploy its troops within 60 days

"Today Nato and the European Union have taken a major step forward in putting into effect the strategic partnership between the two organisations," he said in a statement.

While EU foreign policy envoy Javier Solana said he now looked forward to relations on a "different footing" between the two organisations.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the agreement was reached after "very difficult" negotiations.

"We are now able to conduct operations where Nato does not want to get involved. It is complementary to Nato," Mr Blair said.

The long-awaited deal was agreed in principle in October, but was held up by a row between Turkey and Greece over control of Nato's military assets.

Turkey - a member of Nato but not the EU - has balked at the prospect of the EU having access to Nato assets when they then might be used against Turkish interests.

But on Friday, Turkey said it worries had been resolved.

In a concession to Ankara, the EU leaders agreed that Cyprus - which is due to join the EU in 2004 - would not take part in any EU military operation that uses Nato assets.

Balkan operations

The delay forced the EU to acknowledge last month that it would miss a 15 December deadline to take over from about 700 Nato peacekeepers in Macedonia - planned as the EU's first military operation.

In November, Nato agreed to extend its mandate in the Balkan state, but said it would greatly scale it down.

In a draft text of the conclusions of the Copenhagen summit, the EU said it could take over the operations in Macedonia "as soon as possible in consultation with Nato".

The EU also asked Mr Solana to start talks with the UN envoy in Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown, on the EU succeeding the Nato-led S-For troops.

Mr Robertson said that while details of the deal had to be worked out, there was a determination to complete the task by March next year.


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31 Dec 01 | Review of 2001
12 Dec 01 | Europe
13 Dec 02 | Europe
13 Dec 02 | Europe
13 Dec 02 | Europe
11 Dec 02 | Europe
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