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5 EU Countries Set Up Military Policing Force - 2004-09-18

Five European Union countries have agreed to set up a new defense body that can be deployed in European and other countries to help with crisis management.

EU countries that have agreed to set up Eurogendfor all possess police forces with a military status. They include Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands.

The new defense body will be based in Vicenza, in northern Italy. It will have an initial rapid reaction force of 800 men deployable within a maximum of 30 days.

Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino explained the new force could be used for three different types of intervention.

"The force could be used to prevent a conflict, so before a military intervention, or it could be used in support of military intervention, or it could be used after the military intervention to make sure the post-conflict runs smoothly," he said.

Depending on the mission, units of Eurogendfor will be placed either under military command or civil authority. They will be responsible for guaranteeing security, public order and fulfilling judiciary police tasks in places such as Bosnia, as long as all the countries involved agree on deployment to a particular country. Mr. Martino says the new force will be mainly at the disposal of the EU, but could be utilized by international organizations.

"It is assumed explicitly that it can operate under the umbrella of other international organizations, including NATO, including the United Nations, including the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe], in case there is no objection to the use of the force on the part of one of the countries participating in the project," said Mr. Martino.

Eurogendfor is based on a Franco-Italian initiative first announced in October 2003 during the informal meeting of EU defense ministers in Rome. A declaration of intent among the initial five member countries was signed by defense ministers Friday in the Netherlands. The force is expected to be operational by the end of 2005.