Security experts said Macedonia will improve its military capabilities as well as contribute to the common European defence.
By Marina Stojanovska for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 27/11/13
Macedonian soldiers will participate in the EU battle group training and exercises in 2014. [AFP]
Macedonian officials have agreed to allow the army to move ahead with EU integration by demonstrating readiness to participate in and contribute forces to the EU Battlegroup (EUBG).
"The battlegroup for the second half of the next year will have around 3,000 persons," Macedonia's defence ministry said in a statement released to SETimes.
Since 2007, the EU has organised the battlegroup as the Union's rapid reaction force -- made up of two units -- in which EU member states take turns contributing soldiers on a half-year rotation. Macedonia has been a candidate for accession since 2005.
As part of the EU Battlegroup activities, Macedonian soldiers will participate in joint exercises with German, Dutch, Spanish, Luxemburg and Belgian forces, which should help the country's military capacity to deal with a variety of security risks.
"Participation in the EUBG's multinational activities and building joint preparedness is an exceptional opportunity to become familiar with the European forces' procedures and practices. That is of great importance for the Macedonian army when it comes to implementing them during regular training as well as in the preparation process to participate in the EU common security and defence policies," the ministry said in the statement.
Joining the EUBG is a logical step forward from Macedonia's past engagements in peacekeeping missions, said Vlado Buckovski, former Macedonia defence minister.
"Besides participating in the NATO-guided missions like in Afghanistan, Macedonia is also contributing to the EU missions such as ALTEA in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) as part of the effort to build common European security. Participation in the missions brings in huge experience, hence one should positively consider Macedonia's participation in the European Battlegroup," Buckovski told SETimes.
Macedonia's military will make full use of the European collective security system's comparative advantages but will also show it has the capacity to contribute to it, said retired General Ilija Nikolovski, Macedonia's first military representative to NATO in Brussels.
"Participation will provide greater security for the country and will also have an impact on the future transformation of defence, including new abilities that should be developed by being part such a mission," Nikolovski told SETimes.
Nikolovski said participation in the EUBG provides an opportunity to apply the lessons learned from past participation in peace missions.
"This way, we should show we are dedicated to constructing systems of mutual value and participating in co-operative activities for the collective security systems with the ultimate goal to gain membership in NATO and the EU," Nikolovski added.
Nikolovski cautioned that participation requires a financial investment -- unspecified at present -- and Macedonia may need to increase its defence budget to satisfy the requirements for this mission.
How can the European allies assist Macedonia to better integrate in the European Battlegroup? Share your opinion in the comments space.