23 March 2002

EU will continue working to reach permanent agreement with NATO enabling it to carry out peacekeeping missions using Atlantic Alliance resources

At their meeting in Zaragoza, the EU Defence Ministers and the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, have examined the prospects for the European Union taking over from NATO this autumn in the "Amber Fox" mission to protect international peace observers in Macedonia.

At the closing press conference, Mr Solana said that "for this to happen, we still need the Macedonian authorities to agree to the EU taking over the operation, and we also need a permanent agreement with NATO, which is something we will continue making every effort, at every level, to achieve." Mr Solana was in no doubt that "we will reach a solution enabling the EU, for the first time, to take on its own peacekeeping operations using Atlantic Alliance resources."