An informal meeting of EU defence ministers has got underway in Northern Finland. In the presence of the former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and the EU’s head of Diplomacy Javier Solana, the ministers were treated to a demonstration of the capabilities of the EU’s Rapid reaction force. On the agenda for discussion: Bosnia, Kosovo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The way has been paved for a reduction of EU troops in Bosnia from 5, 800 to 1, 500, agreed in principal but with no timescale being given.
In Kosovo, the thinking is that the EU will pick up the baton laid down by NATO but only when the future status of the province has finally been agreed. The only area of discord centred on the Democratic Republic of Congo. The general consensus was for a prolongation of the current tour of duty for EU troops already on the ground. This would avoid their departure pencilled in for the end of November from clashing with the result of elections due around the same time. But this met with opposition from Germany, who, along with France, is one of the major contributors to the peacekeeping force.