The authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina are trying to prevent the adoption of a decision by which Hungary would take command of the EUFOR mission, due to the close ties that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has formed with Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, BiH Defence Minister Zukan Helez said.
Helez said this ahead of his trip to Vienna to meet with Klaudia Tanner, Minister of Defence of Austria, which currently has its own general at the head of EUFOR.
The military operation of the European Union in BiH called Althea was established in 2002 when the NATO-led SFOR mission had ended and the task of a much smaller contingent of soldiers from the EU and associated countries remained to monitor compliance with the Dayton Agreement and the security situation.
The first commander of EUFOR was British General David Leaky, but as the number of soldiers gradually decreased, the commanders also changed, and in the past years this position has been held by Austrian officers. Currently, it is held by General Helmut Habermayer, who began his one-year term in January.
The Austrian government has previously announced that it intends to abandon the nomination of its generals as EUFOR commanders because it needs all military resources in the country to control the migrant crisis.
Immediately after that, Hungary expressed its readiness to take command of EUFOR, and it is speculated that Budapest has already decided that the new commander will be General Laszlo Sticz.
The final decision on this should be made by the EU Political and Security Committee, and in some political circles in BiH, the prevailing opinion is that Hungary is not a good choice.
“I am going to Austria because of the extension of the mandate of the Althea mission. It is problematic who will be the commander,” Helez told Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina television (FTV).
He confirmed that the goal is to try to get the Austrians to continue to lead EUFOR and to block Hungary's plans.
“We have nothing against Hungary, but with regard to Orban's views and attitudes towards Bosnia and Herzegovina, we must react to try to prevent this. Orban's regime is similar to that of Dodik and Putin,” said Helez.
Asked if he had anything against the participation of the Croatian Army in the Althea mission, which was previously proposed by Croatian President Zoran Milanovic, Helez responded by stating that the discussion about it is superfluous.
“That was defined a long time ago and I would not fall into those traps. It is completely irrelevant. We have members from so many countries, it is a multi-ethnic composition. It is important for us to have peace here and to preserve stability,” he said.