Dear Ministers, Generals, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is a pleasure for me to address you on the occasion of the change of command of Operation Althea. I am also addressing you on behalf of High Representative Catherine Ashton.
The European Union remains fully committed to Bosnia and Herzegovina European perspective. The European Union reinforced presence in the country – which includes the EU Delegation, the EU Special Representative, the CSDP missions and our Member States – is evidence of our strong support and commitment to facilitate Bosnia and Herzegovina progress on the EU agenda. We provide our support with a clear commitment to the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a sovereign and united country.
Operation Althea continues to have an important role to play in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The EU has repeatedly confirmed that Operation Althea is a fundamental part of EU overall strategy and presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this regard, the Council decided in October to extend EUFOR presence, and the mission will now continue to provide executive military support to Bosnia and Herzegovina efforts to maintain the safe and secure environment. In November, the UN Security Council also extended the Operation Althea executive mandate for another year. These are important decisions as the Althea continues to be a stabilizing factor and deterrent to a return of conflict and violence.
In the context of the reinforced EU presence, the main effort of Althea in the future will be capacity-building and training for Bosnia and Herzegovina Armed Forces. This will assist Bosnia and Herzegovina on its path to Euro-Atlantic integration and contribute to long-term stability. At the same, time Althea redesigned mandate will be well positioned to contribute to EUs overall political agenda in the country – be it working on the destruction of small arms and ammunition or on the Inter-Entity Border Line where Althea retains its mandate.
Let me also use this opportunity to congratulate Major General Bair for his excellent job as the commander of EUFOR over the two last – challenging – years. Your expertise and deep knowledge of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a tremendous asset which you generously have shared with the entire EU family. Under your command, EUFOR has been a true partner to the EU Special Representative and the EU Delegation. General Bair – thank you for your hard work and dedication.
At the same time, I also want to warmly welcome Major General Robert Briger as the new Commander of EUFOR. You are taking over a complex task at a difficult moment. I want to assure you that I and the entire EU presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina are ready to assist and work very closely with you in the future as our common goal is to ensure stability and support to the EU agenda in the country. General Briger – welcome to the EU family in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Finally, let me also thank the Operation Commander General Shirreff for his strong support to Althea and to the overall EU agenda in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I wish Operation Althea the best of success in the future. Thank you.