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news 30 Oct 15

Illegal Arms Trade 'Threatens Balkan Security'

Regional cooperation and tough controls are the key to success in the fight against the illicit arms trade in the Balkans, a SEESAC conference in Belgrade heard on Friday.

Igor Jovanovic
SEESAC conference in Belgrade | Photo: Courtesy of SEESAC

Western Balkan countries exported weapons and military equipment worth around 1.6 billion US dollars between 2007 and 2013, so control of arms exports is crucial for the maintance of regional peace and stability, a conference in Belgrade heard on Friday.

The uncontrolled proliferation and illicit trafficking of weapons was described as a serious problem in South Eastern and Eastern Europe, which can fuel crime and insecurity.

As a significant military industry and considerable surpluses of weapons make arms transfers an important component of the region’s economies, appropriate controls of the arms trade are key to regional and international peace and security, it was said.

The South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons, SEESAC, works to strengthen the capacities of national stakeholders to control and reduce the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons.

It works under the mandate given by United Nations Development Programme, UNDP.

Irena Vojackova-Sollorano, UN resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative in Serbia, said that all the Western Balkan countries had decided to stop illicit arms trade and make weapons exports transparent.

“This is important since the illicit arms trade can destabilize the countries and the governments in Balkans… The future of successful societies in Western Balkans depends on that,” she said.

At a Belgrade conference, SEESAC also presented the results of its Arms Transfer Control Programme in Western Balkans, which has worked for over nine years with institutions in Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia.

The aim of the programme, supported by the Foreign Ministry of Norway, was to build regional confidence, bolster control mechanisms, increase transparency and enhance knowledge transfer, and information sharing.

Regional cooperation is a keys for successful fight against the illicit arms trade in Balkans, SEESAC conference heard on Friday. | Photo: Courtesy of SEESAC

Ivan Zvershanovski, SEESAC representative, said that the goal was to work on the prevention of illicit arms trading by improving weapon trade licensing, post-export controls and trade transparency.

“The greatest success of the programme on the control of arms exports in South East Europe is transparency. It was a taboo subject in 2000… but now Serbia is the third most transparent country in the world when it comes to the arms trade, following Germany and Switzerland," he said.

Zvershanovski added that there are no official data on the illegal arms trade in the Balkans but it is not just a regional but a global problem.

“All we can do about it is to significantly increase controls in order to suppress the illegal trade to the level of statistical error,” he said.

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