A photo exhibition illustrating successful implementation of an arms control agreement is touring South-Eastern Europe. The exhibition, which opened in Vienna last year, was in Mostar and Sarajevo last month, and will open in Zagreb on 11 May.
The aim of the exhibition is to show how security can be achieved through co-operation. With the end of the wars in South-Eastern Europe, the conflicting Parties made a commitment to rebuild peace and stability in the region. An important element of this was the reduction of weapons, exchange of military information and unannounced inspections that the Parties signed up to in Florence in 1996. The agreement forms part of the Dayton Peace Accords (Article IV of Annex 1B) and establishes limits for battle tanks, artillery pieces, combat aircraft, attack helicopters and armoured combat vehicles. It is based on the same guidelines and principles as the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, which includes 30 states. Nowadays, there are four Parties to this sub-regional arms control accord: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia.
"Sometimes, posters and photos convey a better impression of the real situation in the field than speeches or reports ever will," says Brigadier General Costanzo Periotto, the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for Article IV, who initiated the exhibition. "The photo exhibition gives the local communities a clearer picture of what has been done so far under this agreement and offers an insight into how it was done. Thus, it affords the viewers an opportunity to reflect upon the impressive development in this region."
Significant arms reductions
Since the agreement was signed, the inspectors of the Parties have carried out more than 325 missions with the support of more than 1,100 international assistants from 29 OSCE countries. A total of 624 inspections have been conducted, 129 of them reduction inspections. As a result of the agreement more than 9,000 pieces of heavy weaponry have been eliminated from the region.
Teams from the countries have been conducting inspections in the field in all four countries. Unannounced inspections are important not only for fulfilling the aim of Article IV, which is a balanced and controlled arms situation, but they are also a confidence-building measure between the countries and their military representatives. In addition, the meetings of the Sub-regional Consultative Commissions and Permanent Working Group are perfect opportunities for the countries' representatives to meet and to strengthen their relations at both the political and technical levels.
Over the last 14 years there has been great progress, with the countries advancing, although at different speeds, towards further European and Euro-Atlantic integration. As a first step towards EU membership, all the countries have signed Stabilisation and Association Agreements with the European Union, with Croatia having obtaining candidate status in 2004. In addition, all the countries are in NATO's Partnership for Peace programme, while Croatia became a member of NATO in April 2009 and Montenegro joined the Membership Action Plan in December 2009.
Following excellent progress and as recommended by the OSCE community, especially the EU and Contact Group countries, the Parties are now encouraged to take greater ownership in the implementation of the agreement, with the eventual aim of their taking full control.
"It needs to be underlined that this phased evolution towards full autonomy should not be interpreted as the international community withdrawing its support or leaving the region on its own," says Brigadier General Periotto. "On the contrary, the international community will stay engaged, but wants to see the countries themselves being in charge."
Peace and stability of the region is in everyone's interest. There are two pre-conditions for success: enhanced regional ownership and continued international support.
The exhibition will be open in the gallery of the Ministry of Defence in Zagreb on 11 May 2010.