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News 17 Feb 17

Bosnian Military Exports to Middle East Booming

Bosnia’s growing foreign arms sales are a rare export success for the country, although many weapons are going to Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of abuses in the Yemen conflict.

Igor Spaic
BIRN
Sarajevo
Photo: UNDP Europe/Twitter

According to the Bosnian Foreign Trade Chamber, the country’s arms producers achieved profits in 2016 that were between 15 and 20 per cent higher than the year before.

The Chamber’s data shows that the value of arms exports in 2016 amounted to 87.4 million euros, compared to 70 million euros in the previous year.

The country’s military firms exported most to Egypt last year, followed by Saudi Arabia - which imported the most Bosnian-produced arms and military equipment in 2014 and 2015.

In 2016, Bosnian military exports to Egypt amounted were worth about 22.8 million euros. Exports to Saudi Arabia were worth about 17.2 million euros, and to the United States, 12.8 million euros.

Other major importers of Bosnian-produced arms and military equipment in 2016 were Serbia, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, Bulgaria, Switzerland and Malaysia.

To each of these countries, Bosnia exported less than five million euros’ worth of arms, ammunition and military equipment.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is not known for being a major exporter, but its growing annual arms exports seem to be one of its few economic success stories in recent years.

Muris Cicic, an economic analyst and professor at the School of Economics and Business in Sarajevo, told BIRN that the military exports would help lower the foreign deficit and could help other sectors of Bosnian industry.

“The military sector has always also produced important innovations and new ideas for the civil sector as well,” Cicic said.

“If this sector is strong, it will surely support the community where it operates and may result in ‘spin offs’ – the commercialisation of areas of production that are not exclusively part of the military industry, but are related to it,” he explained.

“This is an exceptional chance for the economy of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he added.

However, Saudi Arabia, one of the top buyers of Bosnian-produced arms and military equipment, has come under fire from rights organisations for alleged human rights abuses connected to its military operations in Yemen, which began in 2015.

Along with Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina has approved arms exports worth some 1.2 billion euros to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Turkey since 2012, according to a joint investigation by BIRN and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) published last year.

Many of these weapons are likely to have been sent on to the brutal civil wars in Syria and Yemen.

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