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EU Peacekeeping In Bosnia: What's In A Name?

(file photo) EU foreign ministers agreed in Brussels on 12 July to step up "planning and preparations in consultation with Bosnia-Herzegovina authorities and with NATO" to take over Bosnian peacekeeping responsibilities from the Atlantic alliance at the end of 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 29 June 2004).

The 7,000-strong EU force will be known as Althea and will include many soldiers already serving in NATO's SFOR. Unlike the previous EU missions in Congo and Macedonia, this one does not have a time limit. Like its two EU predecessors, Althea has a name of classical mythological origin that eliminates problems in translating its name and acronym into the many languages of the EU.

The mission will presumably enable the EU to show that it can bring military as well as civilian resources to bear, maintaining order and promoting reform in an unstable part of Europe without a central role for U.S. forces.

Althea will nonetheless have much overlap with NATO. Assets will be shared under a formula known as "Berlin plus," and the mission's headquarters will be at NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Germany's Admiral Rainer Feist, NATO's deputy supreme allied commander for Europe, will be the EU's operation commander. Britain's Major General David Leakey will be the force commander.

For its part, NATO will retain a smaller mission in Bosnia to promote reforms in the military, apprehend indicted war criminals, and combat terrorism, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 13 July. The United States also plans to maintain its base near Tuzla out of concern for possible terrorist activities in Bosnia, the broadcast added.

Some voices in Germany, France, and elsewhere in the EU have called for the United States to leave Bosnia and perhaps other Balkan regions in favor of the EU (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 March 2004). Many Bosnian Muslim and Kosovar Albanian leaders, however, consider a continuing U.S. military presence crucial for regional security. They welcome EU aid and investment but believe that only the United States has the necessary military muscle and determination to keep peace in the area and deter would-be aggressors.

Washington has sought in recent years to scale down its military presence in the Balkans. It has nonetheless shown renewed interest in the region since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks because of possible Islamic-extremist activity in the area. Some American critics of the EU, moreover, have become increasingly wary of an organization in which some members define themselves in opposition to the United States, or seem to take particular delight in challenging the United States in international courts or forums, or boast like former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev about overtaking the U.S. economy by a certain date (in this case 2010).

Meanwhile, Amnesty International said in a statement in Brussels on 12 July that Althea should learn from the mistakes of SFOR. "The EU should not fall victim to the same lack of safeguards shown by SFOR, including the failure to adequately address violations of detainees, human rights," Dick Oosting, director of Amnesty International's EU office, said. "It is more important than ever to ensure the highest standards of behavior of troops on foreign soil, with real accountability to match," he added.

Among its many recommendations, Amnesty International called for civilian control over the peacekeeping operation and "a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of sexual exploitation, including prohibiting through disciplinary and criminal sanctions, the use of women and girls trafficked into forced prostitution."

Whatever might come of the new mission, the name Althea seems a curious choice. She was a tragic and not particularly well-known figure in Greek mythology, the aunt of Castor and Pollux and of Helen of Troy, and the mother of Meleager. Enmeshed in family violence, Althea brought about her son's death in revenge for his having killed her two brothers. Meleager had slain his two braggart uncles in retribution for their having killed Meleager's paramour Atalanta, of whose hunting skills the two men were envious. In the end, a grief-stricken Althea committed suicide in a violent fashion.

Click here for an interview with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.