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Martin Dorfer's three priorities for EUFOR Althea and the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina

(B2) Austrian Major General Martin Dorfer, commander of EUFOR Althea in Bosnia-Herzegovina, will leave his position by the end of June. In an interview with our colleagues at Radiosarajevo.ba, he draws up a nuanced assessment of the action on the spot, encouraging the Bosnian authorities to act more quickly. He clearly criticizes the Bosnian Serb decision to build a larger police force.

A report that has been somewhat overlooked because the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is ultimately quite calm with regard to other international issues. But the challenges in terms of mine clearance, ammunition storage, reduction of heavy weapons remain important, as does the stability of the country.

(credit: EUFOR Althea)

Demining not yet really effective

Bosnia and Herzegovina's demining system “is in a phase of transition he acknowledges. Mines are always a " threat to the population ”, which negatively impacts the image of the country “ as a location for tourism and economic investment ". We therefore still need improve it and make the approach to mine clearance more effective ". And to add: we are not completely satisfied with the progress made so far ". However, work is well underway on both the European and local sides.

Initiatives launched

Two years ago, the EU delegation and EUFOR Althea launched an initiative to improve the situation in the field of mine clearance. Initiative following which the European Commission financially supported a project to examine all suspect areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). “ We expect a new realistic mine hazard risk assessment by February next year. As for the Demining Battalion of the forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it makes a “ excellent work ". " They have demonstrated their capacity and commitment to demining » and deserve to be supported. “Their role and capacities in this new land-based demining approach should be strengthened. »

Active support for the operation

Operation EUFOR helps “ permanently » the strengths of BiH with advice and expertise. EUFOR also actively participated and supported Bosnia and Herzegovina in adopting a new demining strategy for the period 2019-2025. This strategy should be included in the amendments to the law on demining, but also in the statutes and regulations “ so that the process of eliminating all threats posed by mines in the territory of BiH is more effective and faster “, underlines the Austrian general.

Another challenge: young people

EUFOR has been running mine threat courses in Bosnia and Herzegovina for 20 years, mainly [with] school-age children". Every year, " more than 20 children take the EUFOR mine risk education courses.

Management of weapons stocks

The other notable safety hazard is “ the over-accumulation of arms and ammunition”. This unfortunatly “constitutes a constant danger to human security and arms control in Bosnia and Herzegovina ". Management of surplus ammunition, mines and explosives of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina "is almost complete". But there are still other tasks identified in the 'master plan' to achieve (2).

Marking of military weapons to be extended to police forces

« We are currently engaged in the project of marking and registration of small arms and light weapons held by the Armed Forces of BiH », Explains the head of EUFOR. But there is still more to do. “ Ideally, the small arms and light weapons labeling and registration initiative would be extended to the country's police forces so that they can also have up-to-date lists of their supplies. » It is also essential to guarantee the best trace of these weapons in terms of limiting the quantity of weapons ».

Relieving the stock of heavy weapons of useless or obsolete equipment

The third phase of the Bosnian master plan will concern the heavy weapons of the armed forces. " We must separate what the armed forces can still use from what is obsolete and must be destroyed ". Audits and inspections of specialized production facilities are ongoing, carried out by EUFOR Althea in close cooperation with the BiH Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations. Goal : "be familiar with the situation on the production, import and export of mines, explosives, ammunition and military equipment ».

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)


The creation of reserve police forces: a bad initiative

The decision of the Bosnian Serbs, ratified in mid-April by the assembly of Republika Srpska, to constitute a reserve police force is not a good decision, insists the Austrian general according to Radiosarajevo.ba. This speech " does not contribute to peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This triggered a negative spiral of mistrust and competition. The dynamic is disturbing and creates tensions and deepening divisions in the country, a factor of destabilization. »

What is more important is to “to fill the gaps in the structures of the police ". That is to say, to have “ well-equipped and professionally trained police forces under democratic control, working together to prevent crime, investigate crime and protect citizens ».

« Instead of taking unilateral measures, the police authorities should instead strengthen cooperation and coordination in Bosnia and Herzegovina between the state, entities and cantons of Bosnia and Herzegovina and across borders with their regional partners and Europeans. This is in the interest of all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. »


(1) Read on B2 Pro: A new head of the EU stabilization force (EUFOR Althea) in Bosnia and Herzegovina

(2) The Ministry of Defense is responsible for removing dangerous or excessive munitions. But the European Union, and the international community at large, are contributing to this task. EUFOR Althea in particular manages the master plan, which coordinates various aspects of aid.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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