View Full Version : EU to take over BiH on Dec. 2

Nov 4th, 2004, 02:19 AM
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina The European Union will officially take over the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia from NATO on Dec. 2, the future commander of the mission said Wednesday.

British Maj.-Gen. David Leakey, who will take command of the European Union Force, EUFOR, predicted that the transition would be "seamless.''

"We will provide deterrence against a resumption of hostilities ... and we will ensure that the safe and secure environment which prevails in Bosnia today is maintained,'' Leakey said during his first meeting with Bosnian media.

He said that his mission -- the EU's biggest military operation yet -- will have the same number of troops -- 7,000 -- as the current NATO-led force, SFOR.

As part of the transition, more than 1,000 U.S. troops serving in this Balkan country will be replaced by EU personnel, with the biggest contingent coming from Finland.

"The handover means that 80 per cent of SFOR troops will merely change title and put EU insignia on their shoulder,'' Leakey said.

He will take over from U.S. Brig.-Gen. Steven Schook, the last commander of the NATO-led mission, but the alliance will continue its presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina through a NATO headquarters in Sarajevo.

More than 60,000 NATO-led troops from more than 40 countries were deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina in late 1995 to enforce the so-called Dayton peace agreement, which ended the 3-year war among the country's Serbs, Muslims and Croats in which 260,000 people were killed and 1.8 million turned into refugees.

The security situation has improved over the years, allowing NATO to decrease the number of troops to the current level of 7,000.

Some NATO units will stay to help local authorities to adopt defence reforms.

Leakey said his troops will help Bosnian officials apprehend war crimes suspects but added that "the primary responsibility for the arrests lies with the local authorities.''