Center for International Stabilization & Recovery

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Posts tagged "croatia"

In Croatia, two decades after the war of independence, it is estimated that thousands of landmines are still buried in the soil. The European Union is urging the country to get rid of those deadly devices, once and for all.

Croatia’s entry into the European Union has reignited hopes the country will be mine-free by the year 2019. Croatian authorities estimate that mines cost the country half a million euros per year in lost potential. At the same time, the population lives with the constant fear of setting off one of these deadly devices.

With more avenues of funding available, Croatian officials plan to rid the soil of an estimated 70,000 unexploded landmines, using a combination of science, technology and hard work.

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ZAGREB, Croatia — Mirjana Filipovic is still haunted by the land mine blast that killed her boyfriend and blew off her left leg while on a fishing trip nearly a decade ago. It happened in a field that was supposedly de-mined.

Now, unlikely heroes may be coming to the rescue to prevent similar tragedies: sugar-craving honeybees. Croatian researchers are training them to find unexploded mines littering their country and the rest of the Balkans.

When Croatia joins the European Union on July 1, in addition to the beauty of its aquamarine Adriatic sea, deep blue mountain lakes and lush green forests, it will also bring numerous un-cleared minefields to the bloc’s territory. About 750 square kilometers (466 square miles) are still suspected to be filled with mines from the Balkan wars in the 1990s.

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CISR Director Ken Rutherford at a field demonstration last week in Croatia with Ambassador Stephan Husy of GICHD and the new director of the Iraq Mine Action program. Dr. Rutherford gave a symposium presentation on psychosocial rehabilitation for landmine/UXO survivors.

CISR Program Manager Nicole Neitzey attends the 9th Annual Humanitarian Demining Symposium and Equipment Exhibition in Šibenik, Croatia from 24–26 April 2012

This year’s symposium was the biggest in its nine-year history, with about 225 registered participants from dozens of countries. All gathered at a beautiful resort location in a small coastal city in Croatia, but despite the idyllic surroundings, we came together to discuss a serious subject. The schedule was jam-packed with presentations and demonstrations on such topics as mine-action standards, underwater demining, use of robots in demining and quality assurance. I was also given the opportunity to present the JMU/C King Associates study into the effects of aging on landmines, a topic that generated a good deal of discussion among participants. 

The symposium was attended by a number of distinguished delegates, including German ambassador to Croatia His Excellency Dr. Bernd Fischer, who reminded the attendees during the opening session that Croatia is poised to join the European Union next year and encouraged the EU to do more to assist its soon-to-be newest member state in freeing itself from the scourge of landmines.

One initiative that the workshop strongly promoted was “TIRAMISU”—an effort by the EU to gather information on various aspects of mine-action efforts in order to make them accessible to all in the community. TIRAMISU stands for Toolbox Implementation for Removal of Anti-personnel Mines, Submuntions, and UXO and the working group’s members come from seven countries and incorporate 24 organizations, including representatives working as mine-action experts, scientists in research and development of various technologies, end users, and advisers. Their objective is to reduce costs and provide greater benefit to mine-action efforts. They seek to connect with various actors in the community for information to inform their work (visit http://fp7-tiramisu.eu for more information).

Day 2 focused on equipment, including a trip to a nearby test site, where participants saw eight demining machines, and ground preparation showed off its capabilities. Rain through the night and into the morning made the test site quite muddy, increasing the level of difficulty for the machines to perform, especially on the obstacle course, which included a steep gradient that the small and medium machines had to climb and come back down. All fared well, however, and the simulation was made more realistic by the landmine-like explosions each machine set off during its trip down the makeshift minefield lanes.

In our downtime, some of us took advantage of the beauty offered by our surroundings. We visited the historic town of Šibenik as well as the nearby National Park of the River Krka with its gorgeous waterfalls. Our gracious hosts arranged a boat trip to close out the workshop, taking us around the Šibenik Archipelago and to the island of Zlarin. 

I made many new connections with colleagues from across the world, met several people whose names I knew as contributors to our Journal, and saw a number of familiar faces, including graduates from past CISR management courses at JMU and in Jordan. Many thanks above all go to Mirko Ivanušić of CROMAC, a JMU Senior Manager’s Course graduate and incredibly accommodating host, attending to all our needs during our time in his beautiful country. 

Mine clearance expert Renato Spahija, 49, has died while at work near Osijek in eastern Croatia.

Spahija is believed to have stepped on an anti-personnel mine. His colleagues witnessed the tragic incident.

The woods that Spahija was clearing are believed to contain some 1,500 landmines, some of them outside of the territory marked as suspicious. The demining activities in the area began mid-December.

Spahija was a father of five, daily Jutarnji List writes. He is the 26th mine clearance expert to be killed by landmines since 1998.

The United States is investing $1 million in support of Croatia as it safely disposes of its remaining inventory of 71 out-of-date man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and improves the physical security and stockpile management of its arms and munitions depots.

The Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, which leads U.S. efforts for conventional weapons destruction programs worldwide, will work closely with Croatia’s Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb to ensure the safe and complete destruction of the MANPADS.

In the wrong hands, these shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles pose a serious threat to civilian aviation. Previous U.S.-Croatia initiatives have resulted in the destruction of 929 of its excess MANPADS. Under this recently concluded agreement, Croatia plans to dispose of up to 17,000 tons of surplus munitions.

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