AIM: start

MON, 01 APR 2002 03:08:44 GMT

European "Hocus-Pocus"

As time passes, European Representative for foreign and security policy, Javier Solana, manifests that before politics physics was his profession: he is doing his best in order to create conditions for a new experiment - to have NATO “foxes” replace the non-existent European quick intervention forces

AIM Skoplje, March 21, 2002

At their last summit in Barcelona last weekend, presidents of states or prime ministers of 15 members of the European Union expressed readiness that the Union take over the role of NATO Amber Fox mission. In the conclusions published in Macedonian media, the "fifteen" stress that they can join the operation at present led by NATO, but (only!) when parliamentary elections are completed in Macedonia and (only!) if Macedonian authorities request it. In the conclusions there is only one "but" that can be of great significance: Greece is blocking the efforts of the Union to reach an appropriate agreement with the Alliance not for any "Macedonian reason" but for fear that, as a full-fledged member of the Pact, Turkey could block certain missions of European quick intervention forces. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis expressed in Barcelona the readiness of his government to cooperate with Spain which chairs the Union revealing that in a sense it was in a "sandwich": on the one hand it did not want to enable its bitter rival in the Balkan score a point, and on the other, it was keen on having the Union try its skill in its first military mission.

For quite some time, from Brussels to Skopje, hints are arriving that the European Union was getting ready to engage its forces for quick interventions when NATO mission Fox is completed. Moreover, representative of joint foreign and defence policy Javier Solana has been announcing a very specific involvement for a few months. They say that don Javier is concerned that hesitation with the final test of joint security and defence policy of the Europeans could devalue an essentially good intention. The mission in Macedonia would also be a test for close cooperation of European institutions with NATO. Cynics say that the best physicist among politicians is in fact doing his best in order to fully justify his post and to have his country, should the plan for quick intervention forces succeed, be remembered as chairing the Union. The Europeans are keen on testing the forces for quick interventions because of the obvious wish of the Americans to withdraw their soldiers from the Balkan and transfer them somewhere where they would be more badly needed - in the war against the global enemy - terrorism.

Eurocrats are offering a few arguments: In the Balkan there are three NATO missions and the biggest number of soldiers in them are from member countries of Union; why would not they take over command?! Is not Balkan, after all, part of Europe and are not the countries of the region doing their best to adopt European ways as soon as possible? Among the three missions, the smallest one is in Macedonia and, as believed by European strategy-makers in Brussels, also the least complicated.

Macedonian officials prefer not to declare their stand, unless they have to. They are concentrating on the best possible performance of NATO's "foxes". In other words, the forthcoming mandate which they believe will be the last, from March 26 until June 26, should help the achievement of the set objective: reintegration of the whole territory of the country. Judging by commentaries in local press, if not completely erased, after a long time, the impression is balanced that NATO does not have a biased stand in Macedonian crisis. After last month's visit of NATO Secretary General George Robertson, the question of European involvement did not have priority. In fact, in addressing local media, Robertson did not even mention it. This does not mean that it was not raised in the talks with Macedonian state leadership. Literally on the same day when Robertson was in Skopje, President of the Republic Boris Trajkovski arrived from America. He told journalists that “Macedonia is not opposed to the formation and activation of European forces for quick interventions. But, for the time being, it maintains the position that NATO mission is satisfying the interest for the implementation of the security plan of this country”. Another significant reaction arrived from Prime Minister Ljubce Georgievski on Saturday, that is, on the very same day when the “fifteen” were in session in Brussels. The youngish Prime Minister like so many times before, made the mistake to improvise concerning foreign political issues: let the European Union and NATO reach an agreement about it – Macedonia needs one or the other variant at least until the New Year’s day, and perhaps even longer. Why until the New Year’s Day, and why even longer – is subject to speculations.

In certain Skopje seated media, the announcement of the engagement of Europeans was understood as an experiment with uncertain outcome. It is clear that there is a feeling of offendedness that none of European officials consulted Macedonian state leaders, at least not publicly. There is plenty of reason to suspect that nobody “takes such a government seriously”. The Europeans would probably say in defence that the whole issue is still under consideration, but even that is enough to cause suspicion. That is how the European Union has an opportunity to score a – negative point. This is not the first time, so it is a convincing enough reason why among international organizations the people of this country should trust, it ranks the third – last. A general impression prevails that America and NATO, even when they make mistakes, they do it “with style”, in the spirit of the old diplomatic saying that “if you want to tell somebody to go to hell, do it in such a way to make him happy because of it”.

Macedonian analysts have no reason for anger. European forces for quick interventions, however noble it may sound, are just a concept in the minds of the administration in Brussels. One should also recall the negotiations about the engagement of NATO (which is still more than desirable) in Macedonia lasted for almost a year. Fortunately, based on what they agreed on in Barcelona, the European “fifteen” know their place: they are still not capable of dealing with a highly risky operation such as parliamentary elections were even in much more peaceful times. At this moment, nobody would dare bet on the date when the next elections – regular or early – will be scheduled. This means that on some sunny day the arrival of the Europeans will be possible. In what year nobody knows.