The return of France to the EU operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

(B2) The French flag was hoisted again this Wednesday (November 14) in the Butmir camp in Sarajevo which houses the European Union stabilization operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR Althea).

The French flag hoisted in the Butmir camp by the Austrian soldiers of the operation (credit: EUFOR Althea)

A Milestone (Dorfer)

« This is another milestone in EUFOR's history following the extension of its mandate by the UN Security Council, underlining the UN and EU's continued commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina underlined the Force Commander, General (Austrian) Martin Dorfer. 19 countries are now taking part in this operation, mainly Austrians and Hungarians, Turks (third countries) and the British.

An absence of the French for three years

The French soldiers had in fact been absent from the Bosnian territory for three years, after a major commitment for years in Bosnia-Herzegovina, whether within UNPROFOR, interposition operations of the Atlantic Alliance (IFOR) and (SFOR), put in place after the Dayton agreements of 1995 or the European operation which succeeded them in 2004. Paris considered that the situation was sufficiently stabilized, and that a military presence was no longer justified .

A tricolor operation command

This still symbolic presence will soon be accompanied by a resumption of command of the operation: a French general reporting to a British general (read: Brexit obliges, the command of the EUFOR Althea operation will pass to a Frenchman). An effect directly linked to the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union on March 29. The French flag hoisted, the British flag could thus be lowered within a few months… unless there is a specific agreement to participate in the United Kingdom, as a… third country.

It should be noted that the command of this European operation is still placed within the framework of the “Berlin Plus” agreements linking the European Union and NATO, the head of operation being within SHAPE. It marks a strong comeback of the French in the European operation commands: in March 2019 in the EUNAVFOR Atalanta operation, and in the summer of 2019 in the Central African Republic.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) The ceremony was attended by French Ambassador Guillaume Rousson, Head of EUFOR, Major General Dorfer, NATO Commander in Sarajevo, Brigadier General Marti J. Bissell, and Police Attaché Brigadier Jean-François Caparos.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).