On 19 December 2019, members of the EUFOR Joint Military Affairs Countermines (JMA CM) team travelled to Travnik to receive a brief at the BiH Mine Action Centre (BHMAC) Regional Office on progress made in emergency minefield marking of Suspect Hazardous Areas (SHA). They also visited recently marked areas in the municipality of Donji Vakuf.
Colonel Johann Jamnig, EUFOR Chief Joint Military Affairs, was welcomed by the Assistant Director for Operations of BHMAC, Mr. Dragan Stojak, and the BHMAC Regional Office Director, Mr. Dragan Maroš. They reported that 253 emergency marking signs had been placed in the municipality of Donji Vakuf from 13 November to 27 November 2019, with assistance from AFBiH demining personnel, in a geographically demanding area.
An estimated 197 more signs are required to complete marking in accordance with national regulations in this area, as fast as possible. Additionally, the director informed the EUFOR delegation that BHMAC Regional Office Travnik has finalized the assessments of all existing SHA within their responsible area, numbering six municipalities in total.
Colonel Jamnig said: “Unmarked minefields are the most important priority for public safety…the first priority should be marking minefields.” In response, Assistant Director Stojak said: “I take this job very seriously…It is in my own interest, as I am in charge of this operation, to complete this work as soon as possible.” He continued, “…it will be made a priority.”
There are 20.5 km2 of SHA in the municipality Donji Vakuf region that remain SHA and will create 10 Mine Suspected Areas prepared for ‘Land Release’ projects, in line with new methodology. The European Union has set aside funds totalling €9 million through EU Instrument for Pre Accession 2018 funds for the express purpose of funding ‘Land Release’ projects.
During the implementation of the Country Assessment of all Mine Suspected Areas in BiH, which consumes much of BHMAC’s resources, EUFOR JMA CM realised that the situation with poor minefield marking of SHA was worse than expected.
In a letter to Minister of Civil Affairs and Minister of Defence in earlier this year, Commander EUFOR, Major General Reinhard Trischak, reminded BiH Mine Action authorities of their obligations to sufficiently mark SHA in accordance with Demining Law 2002; reinforcing the need for cooperation to address the situation, with 30% of all existing SHA in BiH either not marked or not sufficiently marked.
Currently the BiH Demining Commission, the approval authority for all demining work and standard operating procedures, has no mandate due it its expiry in October 2018. There is serious risk of large shortfalls in demining activity if a new Demining Commission is not appointed and then approved by the BiH Council of Ministers.