June 23. 2024. 1:37

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Dutch to send 150 marines to Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of EU mission

Up to 150 marines will be sent to Bosnia and Herzegovina for a year to reinforce the European Union Force (EUFOR) Althea mission, Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra and Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren declared in a letter to parliament on Thursday.

EUFOR Althea is an EU military mission within the framework of its Common Security and Defence Policy, which seeks to ensure peace and prevent a renewed outbreak of violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Starting in 2004, it is seen as a successor to prior NATO peacekeeping missions after the end of the Bosnian war in 1995.

“Given the geographical proximity, the Netherlands and the EU have a direct interest in stability in the Western Balkans. Together with partners, the Netherlands aims to promote political and social stability and peaceful coexistence in Bosnia and Herzegovina and more broadly in the Western Balkans,” the letter to parliament reads.

Besides the 150 marines, ten additional soldiers will be sent to Bosnia to gather intelligence as part of a so-called “Human Intelligence” unit. While the marines will serve in the country for a year starting in October, the intelligence unit will arrive in Bosnia in June.

“Stability in the Balkans is important for a secure Europe. That is why the Netherlands is sending an infantry company and intelligence team to Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was decided by the cabinet today. The soldiers will be part of the EU mission EUFOR Althea,” Ollongren tweeted.

The letter acknowledges both Russia and China as destabilising factors in the region.

“States such as Russia and China are trying to increase their influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Russia benefits from an unstable Bosnia and Herzegovina to prevent further rapprochement with the EU and NATO and to increase its own influence in the Balkans. […] China can use economic power to pressure countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina to create a more favourable environment for achieving its strategic goals,” the letter states.

Recently, tensions have flared in Bosnia and Herzegovina as the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Milorad Dodik, who fosters close ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin, promoted several controversial law proposals and threatened secession from Bosnia.

The Netherlands have a difficult history regarding military deployments in Bosnia: In 1995, the Dutch battalion responsible for safeguarding the population of the Bosnian town of Srebrenica retreated, leading to the Srebrenica massacre, during which roughly 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men were killed.

(Benedikt Stöckl | EURACTIV.com)