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Home arrow newsitems arrow French Defence Minister Longuet to EuroFora on EUROCORPS +ESDP: Collective action debated with MEPs

French Defence Minister Longuet to EuroFora on EUROCORPS +ESDP: Collective action debated with MEPs

Written by ACM
Monday, 24 October 2011
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Initiatives are important, but Collective decisions are necessary in European and International Military action, replied in substance French Minister of Defence Gerard Longuet to "EuroFora" question on the development of EUROCORPS and other EU-led ESDP tools' capacities for Autonomous action, (often more efficient also in International Diplomacy : See infra), as EU Parliament has asked since March 2010, and as it was anew evoked, in a Stimulating overall ambiance of several key-MEPs, later this evening, when Longuet exchanged views with MEPs of the Foreign affairs and ESDP's committees, where concrete, as well as strategic prospects were discussed.
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The French Minister of Defence spoke initially to "EuroFora" at a Press Conference during his visit to EUROCORPS, the European "Etat Major" based in Strasbourg and composed by France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg, as fully perticipating (i.e. with many permanent Soldiers, Officers, Equipment, etc) Founding Members, as well as other EU Countries, such as Italy, Greece, Poland, etc. as "Associate" Nations with Liaison Officers on the spot, while, recently, particularly concerning some NATO-related issues, participation of  Liaison Officers from Turkey and/or USA, etc. was considered.


Longuet was welcomed at EUROCORPS by German general Walter Spindler, deputy EUROCORPS Commander, because the new Commanding General of EUROCOPS. French general Olivier de Bavinchove, who has just arrived at Kabul, in order to prepare the take-over as New "Chief of Staff" for all the International Force in Afghanistan, due to become, on the 1st of Januray its No 3 in the Military Hierarchy, with overall  competence extending to all sectors of activity and throughout all the Country, duringa crucial 2012 Year, up to 2013, i.e. while preparing a delicate progressive withdrawal of International forces, due to be replaced by Afghan trained Army, planned by the USA and its allies for 2014. Meanwhile, EUROCORPS aims to develop further its capacities to coordinate not only Land, but also Air and Sea operations, the Director of its Press Service, colonel Bruno Louisfert confirmed to "EuroFora".

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 - In the Question raised to Minister Longuet, "EuroFora" reminded the Fact that "at the Beginning of the (International Coalition) Operation over Libya, during the 1st week, i.e. before the Brussels' Summit, NATO hadn't yet been involved, but, nevertheless, you succceded well, thanks to France's and our Allies' actions".


- Therefore, we asked Longuet : - "Do you think that, in Future, mutatis mutandis, Europe would become able, thanks also to EUROCORPS where we are now, to lead such kind of (Military) operations or similar ones, f.ex., in another way, eventually in Syria or elsewhere, or Peace-keeping operations, with an equivalent efficiency, or, (on the contrary), we (Europeans) might still need to develop many things (before becoming able to act in such a way), f.ex. in the domain of Satellites (TeleCom, Observation, Command, etc) or other, which would, perhaps, be lacking today ?"
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- "Each theater of operation  is a specific case, and each conflict unfolds in a special context, so that it wouldn't be reasonable to make general conclusions", carefully observed from the outset Longuet.


- But "there is, still, large room for National Initiatives, which prepare and incite International Organisations to trigger a Collective Decision", he optimistically added, not excluding a priori anything.  


- "Each one has its own experience, from one country or region to another, its own knowledge of a theater (of possible military operations), with its History, its relations, its experience". But, "what I wish is that each Country adds all that to the (Common) benefit of the EU, in favor of the involvement of an International Law, which belongs to the UNO at this moment", the French Minister stressed, as a matter of Principle.


- "Are there any automatic processes ? Apparently not. Should we hold a Permanent Consultation" of all those concerned ? "That's true".


- Thus, f.ex., "EUROCORPS, where we are today, is a Remarkable Tool, but it can't be involved unless there is a Collective Decision", Longuet observed, (indirectly evoking, f.ex., the fact that as long as Germany wasn't initially convinced that it should fully participate in the International Coalition acting to protect the Libyan People, then, EUROCORPS' eventual use was, at least for the moment, out of question). "And the Collective Decisions have to follow the fore-mentioned procedure", (See supra).


- "That is to say, EUROCORPS is not an element of the 1st (Political/Diplomatic) move, even if it is its immediate (Military) Support, when the Collective Decision has been taken".


 - "Now, could a Country act alone ? I think No". Because "I can't imagine an International action claiming to defend the Law, which might be Unilateraly decided by anyone today". "An Unilateral Decision, taken by one country it's frankly not the kind of decision needed by a therapeutic action in order to bring towards a Collective Decision", he pointed out, (obviously excluding Unilateral Military Invasions as f.ex. that of Turkey's Army in Cyprus since 1974, according also to a similar Criticism recently by CoE's Assembly, on a Report drafted by German MEP Ms Schuster, of the Governing Coalition of Liberals-ChristianDemocrats, which insists on "Collective" action and International Organizations' decisions, excluding for anyone to act alone, Unilateraly  : Comp. relevant "EuroFora"s NewsReport published earlier).

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 + "EUROCOPRS doesn't belong to (Political) Strategy, but to an Operational" field, "Lets' not go too far on that", Longuet also carefully limited himself to say later on, in reaction to another "EuroFora"s Question about whether EUROCORPS might, eventually, help overcome the Objections that some Partners, such as Russia,  etc., still have vis a vis the need to act on Syria and/or other areas where People are often killed and seriously oppressed by an oppressive regime neighbouring the EU, without being protected by anyone until now....
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 - Thus, "European Defense advances Slowly". But, "what is most important is to never be Degressive : I.e. to advance always, even if slowly..  It would be a pitty to waste an effort which was correctly initiated".  F.ex. EUROCORPS already exists. Therefore, it's important, meanwhile, to at least "make use" of it at various occasions, in order to keep it in shape and augment its capacities, Longuet added later in reply to another Journalist's question, which prolonged our's.  


"EU Ministers of Defence should come more often in Strasbourg", he joked, speaking both of EUROCORPS' Member Countries and others..


"Today NATO has to make a lot of Economies, and, in this framework, I don't see why it wouldn't use some organisations, which are exterior to it, legally and financialy, but compatible and complementary", Longuet thought.


However, EU Parliament has clearly "proposed to place EUROCORPS as a Standing Force under EU Command, and invite(d) all (EU) Member States to contribute to it, according to a Resolution adopted by MEPs as early as since June 2008, an EUROCORPS' Press file reminded Journalists today... (+ See also infra).
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    + Concerning "EuroFora" Questions' specific point on Capabilities, Longuet explained afterwards that "USA brought in (the International Coalition) some instruments that Europeans can't yet set in motion, (as he said), such as the AWACS and Airplane re-Fuelling in particular, but, as far as it concerns most Air-Strikes and almost all Pilots, it was for Europeans to act, accompagned by our Arab allies"'. Indeed, after a while, "the Americans chose to keep away from most AirStrikes, but this didn't hinder the Positive Result of this Operation, i.e. to Neutralize Kaddafi's Military forces that he aimed to use against his own People", he reminded.


     - But, "concerning the (Military) Equipments, the excellent quality of the Airborn, Maritime or Helicopter instruments used by France was tested and proved on the spot" during the Libyan operation, he underlined.


    + "Now, we must take some Time for Reflexion and Analysis", so that "in about 1 Month we could present in Public some useful Conclusions, with Witnesses who could give us the first lessons", from the Libyan experience, "as far as it concerns both the chain of integrated Military Commandment, the place of each Nation inside the International Operation, and, naturally, on how behaved the Men and  the Equipments at their disposal".
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 - As for the Political and Social Future of Libya itself, "it's for Libyans themselves to choose now. But we (the International Coalition) didn't fight for Sharia : We fought for Freedom of choice for the Libyan People", and "I personally believe that Freedom cannot be reconciled with a Conservatism which would be contrary to the Values for which we all struggled", the French Minister softly but clearly warned, in reply to other Journalists' questions.


    - "It's not for us to say what the NTC wil decide. But whenever we spoke before, (Libyan Prime Minister) Jibril was crystal clear about being in favor of a Modern Islam". "Several Muslim Countries succeeded to deal with that in a Modern way, as f.ex. Tunisia until now, and that's the wish I'd have for what they will decide. But their decision will be taken by a (forthcoming) Vote", Longuet soberly observed.
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+ EU PARLIAMENT's DEBATE WITH MEPS :
-----------------------------------

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- Speaking later this evening to EU Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, including MEPs of the Security and Defence su-Committee, on the sidelines of this week's Plenary Session in Strasbourg, the French Minister, (who had a long Experience in the Past also as former Minister for Telecoms and in the Ministry of Industry), warned MEPs that the current Global Crisis must not affect "EU's Industrial basis, in order not to undermine the Autonomy of the European Defence", as he observed.

 - Longuet revealed to MEPs that the current Polish EU Council's Presidency, after consultations with France and Germany in the framework of Weimar's triangle, would present some interesting, "'Ambitious" Proposals for the Development of EU Security and Defence Policy "before the end of the year" 2011.


After the recent Succes of the Operation establlishing an Air Exclusion Zone in Libya and other airborn activities to help the Libyan People, (mainly led by willing EU Countries), the Future of EU's Defence poicy raised now some Topical Questions as f.ex. that of the creation of a Joint EU Staff HQ. (Etat Major), Burden-Sharing on Equipment, etc., as well as that of which Operations might be pursued, etc., he noted.


He reminded that, since the 1992 Historic agreement of Saint-Malo, (mainly between France and the UK, etc), as well as of the Koeln deal on 1999, the 2008 French EU Presidency "contributed" to make progress towards an EU Security/Defence Policy, where France stresses in particular the importance of being "Operational" and of developig the required "Capacities", including by safeguarding an "Industrial Base" required for EU Defense's "Autonomy".


Among various still on-going Operations, EU plays a key role in the International Initiative against Piracy, protecting Sea Ships from which depend 90% of Trade Exchanges Worldwide, cooperates with Russia in Tchad, has an Observation mission on the spot in Georgia since to the Sarkozy 8/2008 Agreements (comp. "EuroFora"s NewsReport from Brixen/Bressanone of 8/2008à, while also keeps Forces in the Balkans (at Kosovo and Bosnia), at the same time that, after the entry into force of Lisbon Treaty, EU appointed its Special Representative for Common Security/Defense and Foreign Policy, Baroness Cathy Ashton on 2009 and staffed its External Action Service swith 6.000 Diplomats, eyes to develop EU's Defence Agency, (f.ex. on Refueling Airplanes, etc), i.e. advanced, "Slowly but with visibility".

20111024_20.36.22_400 

Now EU Defence Ministers are due to meet on November 30, 2011, while the recent Proposal (by a joint Letter of France, UK and Belgium's Defence Ministers) to create an EU Joint Staff HeadQuarters, able to Think, Prepare and Planify action, has to overcome the current "lack of Unanimity" by becoming more precise. But on Regional Maritime Cooperation, EU seems ready to adance further, while Libya just entered a Stage for Police cooperation, Military being perhaps useful just to prevent Destabilisation of Borders and to realize Disarmament, he observed currently.

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+ During exchanges with some 15 MEPs from various EU Countries and Political Groups,  he found naturally "interesting" the anouncement made by former EU Parliament's President, German ChristianDemocrat MEP Hans Gert Poettering, that, "on November", the Annual Congress of the Governing CDU/CSU Party would focus debates on EU Security and Defence Policy :

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- "I raised (to French Minister Longuet) a question on S.A.F.E., which means  : "Synchronised Armed Forces of Europe", i.e. that Soldiers should be able to interact together, Weapons Harmonized, partiicularly at a time when we have to Save Money, Research/Technology coordinated together, etc., and I stressed that I'm in favor of EU Forces", Poettering, who is now Chairman also of the prestigious and influent "Adenauer Foundation", explained afterwards to "EuroFora".


+ Meanwhile, "the Bureau of the (German Governing) ChristianDemocrat (CDU) Party decided this evening that the (Annual 2011) Congress, on November, will debate the issue, and already took a stance in favor of (the building up of) EU Military forces", Poettering added to "EuroFora".
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+ "EUROCORPS already exists, and we (EU) didn't use it yet soon enough, added later in reaction to other MEPs' observations Longuet, who also pointed at the importance of France and the UK's cooperation on European-led Defence operations, (as f.ex. in Libya, etc), as well as on equipment.


- "We have a good Cooperation and signed a few years ago an Agreement signed also by the (currently Governing) Conservatrive party", positively said about France and Britain's role on Defence issues, experienced Foreign Policy Spokesman of the Conservatives and Reformers' Group, British MEP Charlers Tannock to "EuroFora" afterwards.

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However, Tannock, who appeared exceptionaly anxious to find out what was happening at the same time in Westminster, where some 111 MPs voted for a Referendum     against UK's involvement in the EU, didn't mention EU Defence policy, while Prime Minister Cameron was making some interesting remarks in London, about EU's possible Changes which might bring €uroZone Countries closer together, while leaving the other 10 EU Member Countries evolve towards a less important relationship, particularly after UK's recent refusal of any Financial Bail-out and decision (together with France, Germany and the Netherlands) to freeze EU's Budget...


> But, in general, any Military tool is an Operational istrument, the use of which depends from a Political project, the French Minister observed, as a matter of principle.
=> Thereforee, it can have a Meaning only if there is a shared Analysis of the World, and if we have a Political Unity", Longuet stressed, apparently excluding as insufficient anything which might stay only at a Ministerial level, instead of extending at the Highest Political level.


Something which seems to underestimate the Full Potential of the Historic Decision, taken by French President Sarkozy and German Chancellor Merkel on August 16 (Comp. "EuroFora"s NewsReport from Elysee Palace on this Exceptional Franco-Geman Summit), which decided to propose, for the 1st time, to start organizing Regular €uroZone Heads of State/Government Summits...

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However, replying to Lithuanian mainstream MEP Landsbergis (ChristianDemocrat/EPP), who had expressed fears that some Ships sold by France to Russia might,  eventually, be abused against Baltic States in the Future, Longuet expressed the view that "it's no more Westwards that Russia might have Problems, but elsewhere", so that EU should rather  conclude a Stategic Partnership with Russia, and, whoever might feel unsafe, should better wish and act for the development of EU common Defence policy.

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- The Protection of EU's external borders "doesn't exist yet", but "we (EU Countries) have to build it", admitted afterwards MEP Landsbergis from the Baltic area, speaking later with "EuroFora".
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- "It might be too soon to create an EU Army", smiled the experienced President of EU Parliament's Security and Defence Committee, French ChristianDemocrat/EPP MEP Arnould Danjean, speaking to "EuroFora", who, initially astonished, reminded him that he was, himself, EU's Rapporteur for the "Strategic Autonomy of the European Security/Defence policy", which was strongly supported by a clear Majority of MEPs who voted in favor in Strasbourg already since March 2010.


+ However, Danjean prefered, for the time being, to support the practical, concrete and strategic proposal tabled anew by Minister Longuet and others for the creation of an EU "HeadQuarters"' able to coordinate, organize and operate a Collective Operation by willing EU Member States, (i.e. precisely like EUROCORPS !)

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=> Even more importantly, Chairman Danjean agreed spontaneously with "EuroFora" that such kind of Structures as, f.ex. EUROCORPS, EU's HQ, etc, able to act both inside and outside of NATO, i.e. also  Autonomously, could be an ideal solution in order to succesfuly propose also some Key common projects with Strategic Countries which are reluctant or afraid of NATO's immixion, such as Russia, since a purely European Structure  might help to alleviate Moscow's a.o.'s fears or reluctance vis a vis NATO, in order to lift its Veto at the UN SC over eventual International action, f.ex. in one among the most important Hotspots at this moment, such as Syria, etc.


+ Even more important, a purely European Defence structure could also liberate the EU from any Risk of more .. Turkish "VETOs", the experienced Danjean added, reminding a notoriously Grave and recurrent Problem, which threatened to put some Obstacles even at recently at the beginning of the International Coalition's operation to protect the Libyan People (since March 2011), and has already provoked too many Deadlocks, on various Hotspots, from the Balkans to Afghanistan, etc, to the point that even USA President Obama can't have forgotten the astonishing experience of NATO's 60th Anniversary Summit's blockade by Turkey for more than 2 Days, back on April 2009 in Strasbourg, because of Ankara's stubborn opposal to the election of its new Secretary General, former Danish Prime Minister Anders Rasmusen, which was only overcome after provoking an awful Waste of Time and Energy, and only after making to Turkey many concrete concessions inside NATO's secretariat, despite its growing profile as Troublemaker ...

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(The French Minister had a long discussion with EPP's ESDP spokesman, mainstream Spanish MEP Salafranca).

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(NDLR : "DraftNews", as already sent earlier to "EuroFora"s Subscribers/Donors. Watch out for a possible Final Version, more accurate and complete, asap).


***


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    The recent paradox of freezing EU Talks with front-runner Croatia, while continuing controversial EU - Turkey talks, despite Zagreb's acceptance of Refugees' Human Rights to return, that Ankara refuses fex. in Cyprus, while both have "Good Neighborhood" problems vis a vis Slovenia, or Greece, Cyprus and Armenia respectively, can it be justified by the non-fullfilment of EU criteria, as Slovenia says, or, is it "Double Standards" ?    

The question became unavoidable after statements by Presidents of Slovenia and Croatia, Tuerk and Mesic, respectively, to "EuroFora", exclusively or among Strasbourg's journalists this week at the CoE, on the sidelines of its 2009 Summer University for Political Schools, which topically brought them together as successive key-note speakers.


    Comming only a few Months before EU checks Turkey's compliance to its commitments on Cyprus, etc., scheduled for December 2009, this obviously has a special importance for the coherence of EU Enlargement's principles.

     Suspension of EU Negotiations is a normal consequence in case of a Candidate Country's failure to fullfil EU Conditions, such as "Good Neighborhood relations", stressed at first Slovenian President Danilo Tuerk, current CoE's chair.

    But, regarding EU's Criteria,  there shouldn't be any "Double Standards",  reacted Croatian President Stjepan Mesic, commenting the fact that Turkey's controversial EU negotiations continue, while they were recently "freezed" in the case of Croatia, an "unquestionably European Country", which oficially accepts to respect Refugees Human Rights, contrary to Ankara's notorious refusals or reluctance.                                       

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           - "EU itself has set as a Criterium (for EU Enlargement) the "Good Neighborhood relations",  and their absence justifies the "Suspension" EU Negotiations, (f.ex. with Croatia), because of a Border dispute affecting the territorial integrity of an EU Member Country, stressed Slovenian President, Danilo Tuerk, CoE's Chairman in office (May - November 2009), speaking to Journalists in Strasbourg including "EuroFora".    

Questioned earlier what "consequences on EU's Enlargement policy" can have the "Ban on EU Membership Negotiations", imposed to Croatia, Tuerk replied that "this question comes down to the fulfillement of (EU) Criteria for membership. One has to look at each Candidate Country ., from the point of view whether it fullfils the Criteria that EU has set. One of them are Good Neighborhood Relations, I'd like to remind. And also, there are other factors, such as Justice, Home affairs, Rule of Law, and others".


    - "Now, ..Candidate Countries are at Different Levels of fulfillement of Criteria", he observed.

    - " Croatia is obviously the closest to that. I'm rather optimistic : I think that in the coming Months we'll have an opportunity to look at all these issues constructively and hopefully we'll be able to make progress". "My main concern, at this point, is the situation in Bosnia : We haven't seen enough progres domesticaly. We haven't seen enough during ..political parties within their country.We need a New Energy, a new energetic move towards the Candidature for EU membership. "Other (Western Balkan) Countries (Serbia, Montenegro, FYROM, Albania) have been making soaring Progress, and I think that they should be ready, in a few Years, for the Candidate status".

    - "As far as the Western Balkans are concerned, .. nobody should be left outside" the EU, Slovenian's President concluded, ommitting to mention Turkey's controversial EU bid.

    - "This process may be seen as Slow, but..  Slovenia has also has also been exposed to various "Booms of Slowness" in our accession period. But now we can say that the process was relatively quick, because changes which occur after becoming EU member, are quite large, and they require proper Preparations before the (EU) membership becomes a new factor, an impacting line for a new (EU) member country".
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EU "Solidarity" ?
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Slovenian statements made some participants from certain 3rd Countries as FYROM, etc. claim that "the Principle of EU Solidarity" would "produce a.. rising European Union Nationalism (sic !), against Non-EU Countries", as they said, asking unhappy foreign countries to form a "bloc" to exert pressure on the EU...    

But Croatian President Stjepan Mesic dismissed that, supporting "EU Integration", "after the Economy also in Political" issues, as "the achievement" of our times. In EU there is "diversity, but it's United", he stressed, "EU has to be United so that it can become a central factor of Peace" also at the surrounding areas, he replied.

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Speaking later exclusively to "EuroFora", the experienced twice President of Croatia, former President of the International "Non-Aligned" movement, denounced "Double Standards" in the way EU treats recently Croatia compared to Turkey :   

 - "I think that there shouldn't be Double Standards", stressed the Croatian President, in reply to a Question comparing the freeze of EU - Croatia talks, with the continuation of EU - Turkey talks, despite the fact that Croatia is an "unquestionably European country", while Turkey's EU bid is notoriously controversial.


    Mesic was reacting to the observation that, even if he confirmed his "respect of Refugees' Human Rights to return, etc. (See infra), nevertheless, EU talks are suspended with Croatia.. While for oher, controversial candidates, who refuse to respect Refugees' Rights to return, etc., as fex. Turkey does in occupied Cyprus and elsewhere, EU negotiations continue".

    - "I believe that Croatia's accession will confirm that all European Countries who fulfill all of the Conditions and achieve European Standards, have to join the EU. There shouldn't be any Double Standards", went on to add in reply President Mesic.

    In this relation, Croatia's President found "of paramount importance", CoE's "mechanisms enforcing ECHR's judgements"
    
    - "On Refugees and Displaced persons, the process will be completed only after the last person demanding to return will be allowed to do so !", President Mesic Croatia stressed earlier, setting a general standard of obvious importance also for otherr candidates, as f.ex. Turkey, often accused to exclude or heavily restrict Greek Cypriot Displaced persons' return to their Family Homes and ancestral land, provoke difficulties to Turkish-Kurd IDPs return to their home regions at the South-East, etc.

    Some "2.000 People are still reported Missing" in former Yugoslavia, for some Years, (as in Cyprus, modern Europe's oldest case, for 3 Decades. Nagorno-Karabach, Tcecnya in Russia, etc, more recently), and Investigations "will only be completed after establishing the fate of the last one of them", he added.
    
    Speaking earlier on "War Crimes", President Mesic stressed that "Leaders are responsible for (the) Wars (of the Past), not the People", and called against Impunity :  "Individuals have to be held Responsible for Crimes. International Penal Tribunals have to persecute those individuals", perpetrators of War Crimes, he underlined.

    Such statements naturally made Mesic rather popular at ECHR, whose President, French EuroJudge, Professor Jean-Paul Costa, looked particularly smiling when he welcomed him later on Wednesday afternoon, after Slovenian President Daniko Tuerk earlier this week.
           

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