Sunday

21st Oct 2018

Croatian region calls for EU aid on landmines

The EU should step up aid for demining activities in Croatia, where almost a 1,000 square kilometers of suspected minefields still wait to be cleared - an effort which could take another 50 years at the current pace, an official from the most affected region told EUobserver.

"We speak on behalf of the 500 people who died after the war and the 1,500 who were injured by landmines. Our region remains the most affected one," Stjepan Ribic, the representative in Brussels of the Slavonia and Baranja region, stretching from the east of Croatia to its borders with Hungary and Serbia, said.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Landmines in Croatia have killed 500 and injured 1,500 since the end of the war (Photo: United Nations)

Mr Ribic fears that the central government in Zagreb is not a strong advocate of aid to the region, which has neither posh Adriatic coast resorts beloved by EU tourists nor the prominence of a capital city.

Immediately after the 1991-1995 war, international assistance was channeled to demining roads, tourist destinations and public places. Gradually, these activities became the sole responsibility of the national government, which pledged to have the country mine-free by 2010.

The deadline was later extended to 2018, with some 955 square kilometres still under the skull and crossbones sign despite plans for the country to enter the EU in 2011.

The EU contributed €24 million between 1999 and 2007 as part of its direct support for post-war reconstruction. The assistance focused mainly on demining houses and yards in the area around the Adriatic resort of Zadar and along the border with Serbia, especially around the town of Vukovar.

But the region of Slavonia and Baranja would need more than 10 times this amount in order to complete the clearing of suspected minefields on time, Mr Ribic said.

"In our area they have to check centimeter by centimeter, you can't do it with a tractor or a special machine, because there are woods, rivers, and you must pass centimeter by centimeter to be sure that you cleared the field," he explained.

With no precise maps detailing the exact location of the landmines as was the case in post-war Germany, demining efforts in Croatia are harder as time passes by and, for instance, unexploded ordinance is moved along river banks.

"It should be a priority of the EU, which is one of the world's biggest donors on demining efforts all around the globe - from Africa to Asia - with €1.5 billion earmarked for these activities in 1997-2007," the Croatian official said.

"To me it would make more sense if the EU would clean up its own yard first and then go help other countries."

Farming potential

Still the poorest region of the former Yugoslav country, Slavonia and Baranja has huge potential for bio-agriculture, if the inhabitants would finally get access to their lands.

In regards to the current EU funds flowing to Croatia under the so-called Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA), the commission has said that the only way it could finance demining activities was if these were part of other projects, for instance laying bicycle tracks or golf courses.

But economic development projects are hard to roll out without demining first, while most lands are privately owned, which makes them ineligible for EU funding, Mr Ribic said, urging the EU to show more flexibility in the use of IPA funds and to adapt to what he calls a "unique situation" in a candidate country.

So far, "no funds have been allocated for Croatian demining from IPA," Mirella Rasic from the commission's delegation in Zagreb told EUobserver.

She added that this was in line with the Croatian government's own needs-assessment, suggesting that Zagreb is not particularly keen on including demining in EU-sponsored programmes.

Not on the list

Mr Ribic was also astonished to see that in the commission's guidelines on EU mine action for 2007-2013, Croatia was not mentioned alongside countries such as Belarus, Bosnia, Kosovo, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Laos and Cambodia.

After some insistence, Croatia was put on the register, but the EU executive stressed that this would not mean automatic support for mine action in this or any other country. Demining assistance would only be negotiated on a bilateral basis with each country, it said.

"The problem is that Zagreb doesn't have landmines, so this is not a priority for them. But for our region, it's the number one priority," Mr Ribic concluded.

Magazine

Tug of war between 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' cohesion money

The European Commission has promised greater flexibility for local authorities when it comes to delivering on-the-ground results - but it has also tied cohesion policy to the European Semester, a tool used to coordinate macroeconomic policies.

Interview

Commissioner Cretu: the EU budget is 'very emotional'

Despite Brexit and new priorities, it is important to keep EU funds for all regions - rich and poor - argues the regions commissioner. But more controls, including a link to rule of law issues, are part of the discussion.

Magazine

Fraudsters lured by EU structural funds

It's the job of the European Anti-Fraud Office to investigate any corruption and embezzlement of EU-funded projects. But why are structural funds in particular so attractive to criminals?

Visual Data

Mediterranean towns ready for EU-sponsored free wifi

The European Union's fund for free wireless internet connection hotspots is most popular in Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Malta, Slovenia and Romania. Check if your municipality pre-registered.

Magazine

Decision day for EU agencies relocation race

EU ministers will decide on the future location of two London-based EU agencies on Monday. In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies.

Magazine

The EU Agencies Race

In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies, exploring how their location matters and the benefits for cities and regions to host them.

News in Brief

  1. Germany leads EU criticism of Saudi Arabia
  2. Huge pro-EU march takes place in London
  3. Macedonia MPs back name deal in initial vote
  4. EU to open trade talks with US on beef
  5. EU court orders Poland to suspend firing judges
  6. Japan to focus on circular economy at G20
  7. Italian budget 'significant deviation' from rules, says EU
  8. Podemos initiates debate on legalising marijuana in Spain

Magazine

The EU Agencies Race

In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies, exploring how their location matters and the benefits for cities and regions to host them.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. What Italy's budget row is actually about
  2. EU preparing 'concentration camps' for migrants in Africa
  3. Poland to respect EU injunction on judicial purge
  4. EU votes on Facebook and plastic This WEEK
  5. Top EU banks guilty of multi-billion tax fraud
  6. Polish left a glimmer of hope in fight against illiberal democracy
  7. Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times
  8. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us