SARAJEVO (Reuters) – The European Union peacekeeping force in Bosnia (EUFOR) said on Saturday that France would conduct fast-jet training flights over Bosnia in light of the deteriorating security situation internationally.
The EU last week decided to increase its EUFOR force to 1,100 troops from 600 by sending in reserves from Austria, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia to stave off potential instability after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Some troops have already arrived.
Bosnia lies hundreds of miles from the fighting but is facing an increasingly assertive Bosnian Serb separatist movement that analysts say has at least tacit support from Moscow.
“The Charles de Gaulle Aircraft carrier is currently conducting operational training in the Mediterranean Sea and, from Monday 7th March, its Rafale aircraft will conduct overflights of the Western Balkans including Bosnia-Herzegovina,” EUFOR said.
NATO and EU senior officials have warned that instability from the war in Ukraine could spread to the Western Balkans, Moldova and Georgia.
Bosnia, like Ukraine, has long said it wants to join NATO – a position that has infuriated Russia. Moscow said in March last year it would react if Bosnia took steps towards joining the U.S.-led military alliance.
The Bosnian Serbs, led by pro-Russian Milorad Dodik, want the country to remain neutral and stay out of NATO.
Dodik, who is the Serb member of the country’s tripartite presidency, has initiated Bosnia’s worst political crisis since the end of its war in the 1990s, challenging state institutions as part of the Serbs’ long-time bid to secede and eventually join neighbouring Serbia.
EUFOR, which replaced NATO peacekeeping troops in Bosnia in 2004, is made up of about 3,500 personnel – 600 of them currently deployed in country.
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Christina Fincher)