Speech of Massimo Mina at final conference of EU-funded project supporting landmine victims and their families

Speech by Massimo Mina, Head of Operations Section for Social Development, Civil Society and Cross-Border Cooperation at the EU Delegation to BiH Final conference of the EU funded project “Socio-economic empowerment of mine victims and their families through provision of business trainings and grants for job creation in BiH”

Dear Mr Bojadzic, Mayors, Mr Nenadic, project beneficiaries, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to be here today with all of you to mark the end of the project implemented by ASB to support “Socio-economic empowerment of mine victims and their families through provision of business trainings and employment opportunities in BiH”.

The project is funded by the EU in the amount of EUR 1 million and co-financed by the local authorities with about EUR 150 000.

Key achievement of the project is the creation of employment opportunities for 260 economically vulnerable mine victims or members of their families through provision of business trainings and business grants in target areas. In doing so, it also foster the social integration and improvement of lives of the beneficiaries.  

The project builds on capabilities, and not disabilities of landmine survivors.  It follows international and national human rights standards and promotes rights and obligations of landmine survivors equal in scope to those enjoyed by other members of society. It empowers survivors to exercise their human rights, particularly in the field of employment and vocational training.

The safety and security of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina is important to the EU. Indeed, the whole territory should be open to its people – to live, to work and to build the future.

I would like to underline the strong commitment of the EU to Mine Action in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since 1996, the EU funded 65 projects implemented all over BiH, worth a total of almost EUR 49 million. And our commitment remains strong.  

In addition to this one, there are four ongoing projects, which are implemented by the non-governmental organisations Doking, Demira, Stop Mines and Udruzenje za Eliminaciju Mina, which will together clear about 4.5 million m2 of land with an EU total contribution of about EUR 4.2 million.

In addition to the above four “hard” demining projects, the EU has decided to fund also a “soft” demining project, which is implemented by Posavina bez Mina in the amount of EUR 0.3 million. The purpose is to help municipalities to implement their mine risk education plans focused on school children or adults in specific areas.

Another project, a direct grant for “Land Release”, implemented by BH MAC in the amount of EUR 1.2 million, shall result with the release of about 70 km2 of 3rd category areas such as forest, channels and confrontation line tranches by implementing the innovative land release methodology, including the use of the ortophoto maps provided under the EU funded Land Administration project. Despite the delays in implementation, this project is extremely promising as it can radically speed-up the process of land release in the country.

All those projects increase the capacities of organisations engaged in demining, provide demining machinery and protective equipment and carry out activities in line with applicable safety standards.

More importantly, they contribute to economic development of the country as many sectors directly depend on demining: be it rural development, tourism, investments for transport infrastructures or improving water management.

I am aware that BiH Mine Action Strategy has set a very ambitious objective by stating that demining of BiH territory should be completed by 2019. Indeed, a higher level of annual financial support and stronger ownership of strategy implementation is needed to achieve this objective. 

Investing in education and developing active labour market measures for all vulnerable and long term unemployed would also minimise the risk of the mine incidents that we are witnessing.

As for our commitment, the European Union will continue supporting demining efforts with EUR 2.6 million, which have been allocated under IPA 2013.

However, there will be no substantial progress in the area of Mine Action without a stronger commitment and ownership by BiH authorities, including a serious revision of the existing demining strategy, a revision of the legislative framework and a strengthened use of existing local demining capacities such as the demining battalion and the civil protection staff. This is the only approach which can provide sustainable results in the longer term and move away from excessive reliance on donor funding for mine actions.

Finally, I would like to congratulate with ASB, the project’s partner municipalities and all other stakeholders involved in the project for their efforts, and I wish you further success in the future.