news 20 Jan 16

NATO Helps Montenegro Dispose of Yugoslav Weapons

Montenegro is getting technical and financial assistance from NATO to deal with huge amounts of obsolete weapons and ammunition left in the country after the break-up of Yugoslavia.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
Photo: Montenegrin Defence Ministry.

The Montenegrin Defence Ministry and NATO will soon begin a 15-month programme to destroy 416 tonnes of surplus ammunition and explosives, in an attempt to solve one of the biggest security challenges in the country, the ministry said on Tuesday.

The agreement which the Montenegrin government signed with the NATO armaments procurement agency NSPO provides for the safe destruction of surplus weapons and ordnance which the state did not have the resources to decommission itself.

The mines and other explosives, mostly high-calibre naval and air force ordnance, are located in military warehouses in Pristan, in the Boka Bay on the Adriatic coast, and in Taras, near the capital Podgorica.

"The Ministry of Defence has persistently sought to find the safest way to destroy this part of the surplus, which poses a threat to people and the environment," a ministry statement said.

For almost a decade, Montenegro has been struggling to dispose of a surplus of obsolete weapons, ammunition and explosive devices that have been stored in neglected and poorly equipped military warehouses.

The biggest problem was the disposal of highly toxic hazardous waste, mostly liquid explosive charges from naval mines.

After the split from Serbia in 2006, Montenegro was left with 12,136 tons of ammunition in military warehouses, although the country’s estimated needs were only around 2,300 thousand tons.

It was also left with 74,639 weapons of various types (excluding firearms), of which around 1,000 were heavy artillery, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons and tanks.

They came from the wartime reserves of the former Yugoslav People’s Army, which stored its arms and ammunition for emergency situations in Montenegro.

Most of the weapons were flown to Montenegro during the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Montenegro has already spent tens of millions of euros in an attempt to get rid of the Yugoslav and Russian-produced weapons and ammunition, the majority of which was more than 40 years old.

With the help of foreign donors, the defence ministry in 2007 and 2008 launched several projects which destroyed about 5,000 tons of surplus, despite criticism from the opposition and some NGOs that this undermined the security of the state and its military power.

According to date obtained by BIRN, Montenegro in 2015 sold 538 tons of surplus ammunition, 255 items of weaponry and 614 motor vehicles as secondary raw materials.

About 128 tons of surplus ammunition of various calibres which become unstable was demilitarised and destroyed by the Montenegrin army.

A total of 104 tons of surplus ammunition was destroyed under the MONDEM programme, a joint initiative between Montenegro's government, the UN Development Programme and the OSCE.

According to the latest information from the defence ministry, Montenegro still needs to get rid of at least 2,438 tons of ammunition.

All the costs of the destruction of surplus weapons in Montenegro in the NATO project will be covered by contributing countries - Germany, Turkey, Hungary, Croatia and Britain.

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