Macedonian soldiers prepare to take part in EU’s Althea mission

By Zoran Nikolovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje

The Macedonian government has decided to dispatch a military contingent as part of the EU’s Althea mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The army unit will include 17 soldiers and the crew of two transport helicopters. The unit will leave for BiH in July, and would likely be stationed near Mostar.

EUFOR, or the Althea mission, took over from SFOR on 2 December 2004. Days earlier, on 22 November 2004, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution No 1575 — defining the EUFOR mandate as contributing to the creation of safe conditions and fulfilling plans for the Stabilisation and Association Agreement in BiH.

Earlier this month, the foreign affairs ministers from both countries met and agreed that relations between BiH and Macedonia were very good. Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva said that the preparation of the unit has started.

In addition to dispatching soldiers to BiH, the government also decided to continue missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. A group of 90 soldiers is expected to leave for Afghanistan, pending approval by parliament.

The Macedonian Army (ARM) has announced that units will also help train members of the Iraqi security forces.

This year, Macedonia plans to double the number of soldiers participating in peace missions abroad. Ultimately, the army plans to have a 1,500-member contingent trained under NATO standards to take part in peace missions, once the country receives full Alliance membership.

Macedonian soldiers are under the US command in Iraq and Afghanistan. On 28 March, Admiral Harry G. Ulrich, commander of the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples and commander of the US Naval Forces for Europe, distributed Medals of Praise from the US Army to two members of the ARM unit that were part of the Freedom for Iraq 4 mission.

The Macedonian officers were cited for unselfish service and dedication during military operations in Iraq, which contributed to the success of the mission. They were also praised for contributing to the image of international forces in Iraq and the ARM.

Medals of Praise were introduced in 1945 and are conferred to members of the US armed forces or armed forces of friendly countries who have distinguished themselves with heroism, special achievements or merits.

Taken from Southeast European Times.