A new era for South-East Europe - Rebuilding peace, security and stability in aftermath of war
“I was seven when the war started. I’d play with military trucks and guns and used to find them exciting, but with years full of terror and shelling, all I wanted to see was the heavy machinery gone. I wanted peace”, Zlatan Musich (28) from Sarajevo recalling the horrors of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 20 years after the siege.
A new era for the region
Today all countries in the region, including Zlatan’s homeland of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are pursuing a new agenda, becoming exporters rather than importers of security. A by-product of this new democratic course is the conscious decision to engage together in regional co-operation on all issues from trade to policing. Fostering this co-operation has proven integral to both the regional security and stability of the region and to achieving a meaningful peace.
The next step in this long journey back from the brink will be taken in January 2015 when responsibility for the Sub-Regional Arms Control Agreement will be transferred to the four Parties to the Agreement, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and Serbia. The ability of these actors to take ownership of the Agreement is a testament to the transition that has taken place since the painful wars of the early 90s.
The flow of stabilization
The Dayton Peace Agreement marked an end to the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina by calling on a number of international organisations, including the OSCE, NATO and the UN, to monitor, oversee, and implement the various annexes of the agreement.
Article IV Annex 1-B of the Dayton Agreement was signed in Florence on 14 June 1996. The aim was to provide the Parties with a sub-regional arms control agreement. In the aftermath of a terrible war it served as a framework for the five signatories parties: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina, Republika Srpska, Croatia and Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (later Serbia and Montenegro), to engage with each other in order to promote peace and stability in the region.
By signing the agreement - witnessed by the Contact Group countries - France, Germany, Italy, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States of America – and with the support of the OSCE, the countries recognized that establishing measures for regional stability and arms control was essential for building peace and stability in the region.
To ensure that commitments became actions the OSCE established the Office of Personal Representative for Article IV to broker political consensus. The work helped to encourage the flow of stabilization that was repairing local communities and bringing greater prosperity to the region.
Nineteen years after the Ministerial Council in Budapest in 1995, and 18 years of practical implementation, with the assistance of six different Personal Representatives for Article IV, it is ‘mission accomplished’. The Personal Representative will conclude his role and functions and the future implementation of the sub-regional arms control regime will be managed by the Parties to the Agreement.
The region should be proud of what has been done in the past 20 years. There is a great potential out there and much more to be done. For sake of young people – one cannot look back but steer forward.
Major General Michele Torres
Major General Michele Torres is the last Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for Article IV, Annex 1-B, and with his staff has been working for the last three years to reach this milestone moment in regional co-operation.
“The transfer of ownership to BiH, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, is not a withdrawal of the International Community or an attempt to leave the countries alone in the process to come. Co-operation in all matters of arms control will remain with the OSCE, shifting from hands on assistance to a more supportive role”, said General Torres.
The transfer of ownership is strongly supported by the OSCE community, the European Union as well as the Contact Group countries.
“I can proudly say that the mission as Personal Representative is accomplished”, said General Torres. “It is time the Parties take the ownership. They proved they can establish a stable military balance, at lowest level of armaments, reducing the risk of a new escalation of the conflict. That is all that matters”.
Why Article IV matters
Article IV of the Agreement provided a legal commitment to specific reduction methods, extensive exchange of information and intrusive inspections. It established ceilings in five categories of conventional armaments: battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, artillery pieces, combat aircraft and attack helicopters.
Mission Overview 1996 – 2014
- Inspections: 709
- Reduction inspections: 129
- OSCE assistants: 1307
- Supporting countries: 29
Reduction obligations were also established, and during the reduction period, which expired on 1 November 1997, the parties destroyed 6,580 heavy weapons to reach their set limits. They then continued on a voluntary basis to notify and verify further reductions.
A total of 10,069 heavy armaments have been destroyed so far:
- 1414 battle tanks
- 688 armoured combat vehicles
- 7754 artillery
- 170 combat aircraft
- 19 helicopters
Without these neighbours sitting down and negotiating what was reasonable for national security the potential for further conflict could have been ignited at any time. Overcoming the prejudices and mistrust that had built up over the years of conflict has created the space where a new future is possible, one where each state is able to confidently decide upon their own future.
Sustain the Mission, Secure the Future
“There is a better future ahead”, said Zlatan. “It took me almost a decade to get the war behind me and move on. My country is changing, the region is changing and progressing, and I don’t want to see it any other way. My generation deserves better lives”.
The Parties agreed that the reduction of armaments should be conducted in the most efficient manner and with lowest possible costs and respect for ecological standards.
“To sustain the future one must implement effective policies and practices that safeguard the environment and our quality of life”, said General Torres. “For any of us to be successful in our work towards sustainability, we must all do our part to sustain the mission and secure the future for generations to come. Young people expect of us and we must not fail”.