‘Find ad hoc deal on EU force’

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Greece called yesterday for an ad hoc agreement between NATO and the European Union which would allow the 15-nation bloc’s rapid reaction force to make a peacekeeping debut in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) this year. Defence Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said it was unlikely that a deal guaranteeing the EU access to NATO military planning would be agreed before the defense alliance’s peacekeeping mandate in FYROM ends on October 26. «We think we should have ad hoc discussions on changes in our relationship with NATO by the end of this year,» he told a European Parliament committee. «It would be wrong to put off the mission in FYROM simply because we have not completed our changes with NATO.» Greece’s view on the matter carries considerable weight, partly because it currently chairs the EU’s fledgling European Security and Defence Policy and partly because its disputes with Turkey have blocked a deal on relations with NATO. However, an EU diplomat said the collective view within the bloc was that no crisis management mission should be undertaken without a permanent arrangement on access to NATO planning. Britain and France knocked down a call made by Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt in July for the EU to take over NATO’s mission in FYROM without waiting for a deal on access to alliance planning. The EU’s 60,000-strong rapid reaction force is due to be fully operational from next year. Papantoniou said Turkey, which faces elections on November 3, was going through a period of political instability and so it was unlikely to be in a position to complete negotiations on an EU-NATO deal before NATO’s FYROM mandate ends.

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