Cyprus signs Balkan battle group for EU
by Nicos Bellos
Brussels, Nov 21 (CNA) – The Defence Ministers of Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, signed today a Letter of Intent to set up a Balkan battle group for EU.
The agreement was signed on behalf of Cyprus by Minister of Defence Kyriacos Mavronicolas at the Greek Permanent Representation at the EU in Brussels.
The initiative for setting up the battle group belongs to Greece which will make available the larger part of its forces as the framework nation.
The battle groups are a fundamental EU instrument, providing the EU with rapid reaction forces to execute peacekeeping or humanitarian operations.
According to the EU Council of Ministers, two battle groups must be on alert every term.
Cyprus has made available to the Rapid Reaction Groups a health detachment which is ready at any time to take part in the battle groups.
A statement by the Cypriot Ministry of Defence said the signing of the agreement is of great significance to Cyprus because with its participation, the Republic of Cyprus’ full and equal participation in developing rapid reaction forces in the EU is safeguarded. In addition, the Republic of Cyprus has proved its determination to contribute to the common effort of the 25 in developing rapid reaction forces.
The agreement was welcomed by the meeting of the Defence Ministers and at the General Affairs Council.
In an intervention, Mavronicolas confirmed Cyprus’ participation in the battle group and thanked Greece for its initiative.
The Cypriot Minister also participated in the Defence Ministers’ meeting which approved the new list of the EU’s military requirements, examined the crisis management planning as well as the EU framework of assistance to third states to restructure their security.
The new list was drawn up based on five EU operation scenarios. The member states will have to submit their contributions by March 2006. Cyprus will have to review its contribution based on the new list put forward during the meeting.
During the meeting, there was also a discussion on the cooperation of the European Defence Organisation with third countries, and specifically Norway and Turkey. A number of member states supported the two countries’ relations with the organization be separated and that relations with Norway be promoted. In his intervention, the Cypriot Minister supported the disassociation of the two cases, to allow an agreement with Norway and not with Turkey. The same position was supported by Greece and Malta.