The 12th session of the Strategic Committee for Weapons, ammunition and explosives, hosted by the Commander of EUFOR (COMEUFOR) Major General Friedrich SCHRÖTTER in BiH, was held at the Hall of the AF BiH, Sarajevo on Monday, June 13, 2016 in order to analyse and promote activities aimed to solving the issue of surplus weapons, ammunition and explosives in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The session, hosted by COMEUFOR in BiH, was chaired by the BiH Minister of Defence Ms Marina Pendeš. Also, the session was attended by her deputies Mr Sead Jusić, Mr Boris Jerinić and Lieutenant General Anto Jeleč Chief of the Joint Staff of the AF BiH and his deputies who are the permanent members of the committee and representatives of the Joint Commission for Defence and Security of the BiH Parliament. Also, the session was attended by permanent members of the committee from the international organizations: Office of EU Special Representative (EUSR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), NATO HQ Sarajevo, as well as the representatives of the embassies in BiH (The United States, Switzerland, Austria and Sweden).
BiH still has a substantial amount of unstable military ammunition. A large part of this was poorly stored and maintained. The presence of unstable ammunition in BiH could cause public safety concerns, and is potential risk to a Safe and Secure Environment. It also constitutes a financial and administrative burden to the AF BiH. The governance and overall control of arms depots, and weapons inspections remains firmly with the competent authorities of BiH. However, it is in the interest of everybody concerned that management and disposal occurs following a safe and secure process.
COMEUFOR’s opening remarks highlighted a recent tragic accident in India at an explosives store and a short video of the incident was played to the conference. COMEUFOR said: “Tragic accidents such as this serve to remind of the importance of our role here today to address the dangerous situation which currently exists in BiH with regards to safe storage and destruction of surplus weapons and ammunition.” He went on to say: “We can never allow an incident like this to happen here. We international partners continue to support the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces BiH to resolve this critical public safety issue. Our main focus should be ensuring that the inventory is 100% followed by destruction, stock reduction and proper life cycle management and storage of retained stocks.”
Project EXPLODE activities include: destroying high hazard ammunition and complex weapon systems; supporting the Armed Forces of BiH in the reduction of military ammunition stockpiles to manageable quantities; conducting training for senior military officers to build their capacities; and implementing infrastructure upgrades to improve the safety and storage conditions of military weapons and ammunition storage depots. The Project is also implemented in partnership with the BiH Ministry of Defence, the EU Special Representative to BiH, the UNDP, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
COMEUFOR also said: “I would like to acknowledge the great progress of the MoD and AF BiH to date, but I must also ask for even more engagement and better results. Let us all stay really focused and engaged on our priority aim to make BiH a safer and more secure place to life. I look forward to us working together today to make real and tangible progress towards making BiH a safer place to work and live.”
After the conference there was an opportunity for a short press statement by the BiH Minister of Defence Ms Marina Pendeš and COMEUFOR Major General Friedrich SCHRÖTTER. Ms Pendeš said “" For the first five months compared to last year where we destroyed circa 600 tons we are already at the figure of circa 900 tons." She went on to say,”I hope BiH will continue this intensity of work.”
COMEUFOR concluded by saying, “We will continue supporting the MoD and AF BiH in further development of procedures for storage and also infrastructure and through joint efforts improve the SASE in BiH, which is our common interest.”
EUFOR will continue to assist, both the Ministry of Defence and AF BiH with technical advice, and subject matter expert support, within means and capabilities.