by Sean Jackowitz:
On July 12, 2004, the Council of the European Union voted to take over peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina from the departing NATO Stabilization Force (SFOR). By the end of the year, 7,000 European troops had been deployed to Bosnia.
With troops from over 33 countries—22 of which are EU member states—the European Union Force, or EUFOR, falls under the Council of the European Union and the High Representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The EUFOR deployment in Bosnia is the largest EU military deployment yet. Among its goals is to help Bosnia make further progress towards European integration. EUFOR is under the command of Rear Admiral Hans-Jochen Witthauer. After several successful years serving in the German Navy, Admiral Witthauer was appointed commander of EUFOR in December 2006. He spoke with the Globalist about the situation in Bosnia and his experience as commander of one of the first and most important EU military deployments in the Union’s history
Yale Globalist (YG): Can you briefly describe the EUFOR mission in Bosnia- Herzegovina? S everal years have passed since the Dayton Accords were signed— what tasks remain?
Admiral Hans-Jochen Witthauer (HJW): As with all military missions, EUFOR has been given precise military tasks. Our primary mission is to monitor and ensure continued compliance with Annexes 1A and 2 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace of the Dayton/Paris Agreement and to contribute to the safe and secure environment, thus supporting the Office of the High Representative and the EU’s wider aims in this country. The remaining tasks of our mission include providing support to other EU, international community, and indigenous organizations in the areas of counter-terrorism, organized crime, defense reform, and the search and detention of persons indicted for war crimes.
YG: How can EUFOR help prepare Bosnia-Herzegovina for membership of the EU?
HJW: The main role of EUFOR is to support the safe and secure environment within Bosnia-Herzegovina and thereby allow all other EU and international actors to carry out their responsibilities, both political and military. We are therefore here as part of a wider European Security and Defense Policy mission which includes figures such as the EU special representative who promotes overall EU political coordination in Bosnia-Herzegovina and supports the national authorities with their political reform process. Also, the EU Police Mission, which monitors and mentors the local police, coordinates the fight against organized crime and supports the overall reform of the Bosnia-Herzegovina police forces. Together, the EU family is striving to help develop Bosnia-Herzegovina into a nation that can be accepted into the EU in all aspects. EUFOR will continue to promote the climate within which that development can take place.
YG: What is the difference between NATO’s S FOR, which ended its operations in 2004, and the European U nion’s EUFOR, which you command?
HJW: The main difference between SFOR and EUFOR is that EUFOR is an EU-led military mission and thus receives all political and strategic guidance from the EU Council, exactly the same as our colleagues in the EU Special Representative’s Office and the EU Police Mission. This leads to a greater degree of coherence both within the EU family and the wider international community.
YG: EUFOR troop levels were recently decreased from about 6,500 to fewer than 3,000. Can you discuss this decision? Does this mean that EUFOR is close to accomplishing its mission?
HJW: This decision was taken by the European Council earlier this year after a full analysis of the security situation within Bosnia-Herzegovina. The new structure of EUFOR troops within Bosnia-Herzegovina includes a single multi-national maneuver battalion based in Sarajevo; five Regional Coordination Centers [RCCs] based in Sarajevo, Mostar, Tuzla, Banja Luka, and Zenica and 44 Liaison and Observation Teams [LOTs] based throughout the country. The presence of the RCCs and LOTs provides increased situational awareness within the country. Reserve forces are available outside of Bosnia-Herzegovina and can be deployed quickly, should the requirement to bolster the new EUFOR structure be required. As a final contingency measure, the EUFOR transition process is reversible for the first six months and, if needed, force levels can return to their previous states.