HC Deb 17 May 2004 vol 421 cc659-60
3. Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con)

If he will make a statement on the progress made in delineating tasks between the EU and NATO in Bosnia and Herzegovina. [173151]

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon)

Work continues on the precise delineation of tasks between the EU and NATO in Bosnia and Herzegovina in anticipation of the withdrawal of the stabilisation force, SFOR. We would expect the EU force in Bosnia to provide the security framework to enable political and economic development to continue. NATO's continuing role will be to focus on defence reform, including advising the Bosnians on NATO accession and some operational tasks, including counter-terrorism and support of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Mr. Wilkinson

Does the Secretary of State agree that, if the EU is to take over the principal stabilisation role from NATO by the end of the year, as planned, the EU force will have to have sufficient manpower and resources to carry out its job effectively and that there should be no overlap, turf wars or differences of approach but co-ordination and co-operation between the EU and NATO in Bosnia? Will a British officer command the EU force?

Mr. Hoon

Let me deal with the general principle first. The hon. Gentleman is right that there needs to be absolute clarity about the responsibilities of the EU force and any continuing EU activity in the area. That is why, as I said to hon. Members a few moments ago, we are engaged in detailed discussions to prevent any such overlap and confusion of roles. We are working towards that before any decision is made on the future of SFOR, as he acknowledged in his question. That decision has not yet been made.

Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South) (Lab)

My right hon. Friend knows that the EU wishes to be perceived as a major player in the international sphere on maintaining security. Does he believe that that is sufficient reason for dividing security between the EU and NATO in Bosnia and Herzegovina? Since we are considering a Berlin-plus operation, will any non-EU European NATO allies be involved in it?

Mr. Hoon

In a sense, my hon. Friend answered the first part of his question with his reference to Berlin-plus. Arrangements have been established to allow the EU to take advantage of the military assets available to NATO. That was part of the agreement known as Berlin-plus and it will underpin any EU operation in the Balkans. It is important to recognise that not all EU members are necessarily members of NATO. It is right that we should take advantage of their military capabilities to develop the sort of operation for which Europe in particular should be responsible in its sphere of influence. The Balkans is clearly within that. It is right and proper that, if it is decided to end SFOR, the EU should take over.