Written evidence submitted by Saferworld
1. The Western Balkans
is slowly recovering from the conflicts of the 1990s and the instability
and state collapse that ensued. The result today is politically
weak states often characterised by lack of central control, low
public confidence, poor investment and rising crime rates.
2. A consequence of this weakness is the
increasingly powerful role played by organised criminal groups.
State security services are unable to sufficiently combat these
groups that traffic arms, drugs and people across the region and
into the EU and that pose significant threats to stability, democratisation
3. This submission focuses primarily on
the small arms problems faced by Albania and the states of the
former Yugoslavia. There are many related problems and challenges,
however, including the need for effective security sector reform
(covering both military and police) as well as reform of the criminal
justice sector and the process of legislative development and
parliamentary scrutiny and oversight.
4. One of the greatest barriers to the region's
economic and political growth is the widespread availability and
misuse of small arms. Large numbers of weapons remain in civilian
hands and demand remains high because of unresolved political
issues and a government failure to provide security.
5. The exact nature and extent of the small
arms problem in each country is relatively unknown due to the
lack of comprehensive national assessments. In some cases this
problem is now being addressed, however, via comprehensive surveys
being conducted by Saferworld in Serbia and Bulgaria, and by others
in Bosnia and Macedonia.
6. When addressing small arms and security
challenges, there is also a lack of coordination within national
governments, between national governments (and in some cases between
republic and state governments) and local civil society, and between
international organizations such as the EU, OSCE, NATO and UN.
7. This lack of coordination not only exists
on small arms control issues, there is also a wider and much more
complex problem relating to the lack of co-ordination between
donors, between donors and governments, and more widely on a range
of small arms, security reform and justice reform issues. This
has led to confusion, duplication and inevitably to frustration
and to a lack of effective support in some key areas.
8. Existing support needs to be better co-ordinated
and more effectively targeted, and much clearer and incremental
exit strategies for donors are required.
9. The EU, including the UK, has a crucial
role to play in supporting the development of stability and security
in the western Balkans. The desire to be part of the EU is a prime
motivator for change in all countries and this opportunity to
lever significant change should not be underestimated.
10. Saferworld's Western Balkans programme
focuses on the countries of the former Yugoslavia and Albania
and works with governments and civil society to combat the proliferation
of small arms and reduce armed violence. The governments in the
region have signed up to the Stability Pact's Regional Implementation
Plan on Small Arms and Light Weapons and Saferworld works to help
support its implementation. This submission provides an overview
of the small arms and security situation in each of the Western
Balkans countries and puts forward some recommendations as to
what the UK and EU can do to help address it.
11. The ethnic conflict that affected so
much of South Eastern Europe is largely absent in Albania, though
the tentative nature of state control is an obvious obstacle to
the consolidation of democracy and stability.
12. On an institutional level the lack of
capacity amongst the police is a major problem. Large sections
of the country are outside the control of the regular police (who
are poorly paid and resourced) and judicial authority competes
with traditional forms of justice.
13. The economic situation in Albania mirrors
that of many other transitional countries and the lack of available
economic opportunities encourages many young people into lives
of criminal activity. The grey market in Albania is also large,
depriving the state of much-needed resources. It's estimated that
there are now more people living outside Albania who have left
over recent years to find work than live in the country.
14. Albania is fortunate not to have any
significant ethnic conflicts in the country, which provides the
necessary social stability for advancing personal and state security.
Major Security Challenges
15. Weapon Possession: Albania is believed
to have the strongest gun culture in southeast Europe and traditional
norms of gun use are not significantly curbed by police control
or safety education, particularly in the north of the country.
Estimates suggest that at least 550,000 weapons were stolen from
government stockpiles in 1997. Of these, authorities estimate
that 200,000 weapons were collected and 150,000 were trafficked
out of Albania, with some 200,000 remaining in civilian and criminal
16. Weapons destruction has been supported
by various bi-lateral donors, the UN and NATO, but far more remains
to be done as poor stockpile security poses serious threats for
continued trafficking. Funding for this work appears to have started
to dry up, but the problem is still very much alive with hundreds
of thousands of tonnes of ammunition, explosives and other weaponry
still held in poorly managed stockpiles that are dangerous and
which represent easy pickings for organised criminal groups.
17. To date, there has been no serious attempt
to survey the extent of the small arms and security problem in
Albania. A thorough mapping of the problem is urgently required,
followed by the development of an effective national plan driven
by a small arms commission responsible for implementing it.
18. Organised Crime: The problems of organised
crime and trafficking in Albania are acute and far-reaching with
powerful Albanian criminal networks controlling substantial interests
and assets throughout southeast Europe and the EU. Although assistance
programmes are improving the situation, Albanian state services
and border guards do not have control over their borders. Smugglers
and illegal immigrants regularly use the long coastline to access
Italy, and traffickers between Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro
use the northern border with little risk of being apprehended.
19. The Italian government is trying hard
to combat smuggling from Albania and is working with the Albanian
coast guard and port authorities. Armed groups are predominantly
mafia or criminal gangs, with some paramilitary activity associated
with Kosovo. Despite the assistance of the international community
and regional initiatives such as the SECI Regional Centre for
Combating Organised Crime, which has established a small arms
task force (supported by Saferworld and the UK government through
the National Criminal Intelligence Service), police efforts have
been hampered by a lack of funding, political will and inefficiency.
20. Inadequate law enforcement: The nature
of the security challenges in Albania means that an effective
police force is vital for the country's move towards greater security
and development, and in realising its stated objectives of joining
the EU and NATO. Various programmes have been supported to build
the capacity of the police force including community policing
and membership in the SECI Regional Centre for Combating Organised
Crime. However, as with many areas of governance and security
in Albania, much remains to be done.
21. From a donor perspective, Albania is
a country where much better coordination is needed. On a recent
visit to the country, for example, Saferworld staff met an EU
Project Manager who had never met his counterpart in the OSCE.
22. Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) underwent
a traumatic birth, following the violent break-up of the former
Yugoslavia andas one of the major theatres of the warwas
saturated with weapons for personal protection, criminal activity
and in order to further ethnic claims of territory. The situation
remains tense and a high level of weapons possession exacerbates
23. The cantons and entities that emerged
out of the Dayton Accords constitute the modern state of Bosnia
and Herzegovina. However, the inter-ethnic boundary line between
two entities that roughly divides the Serbs in the Republika Srpska
from the Muslims and Croats in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina
remains stark. Almost 10 years after the end of the war, the political
climate remains dominated by ethnicity, which pervades state structures
and local institutions alike.
Major Security Challenges
24. Weapon production and stockpiles: BiH
used to be a major producer of small arms and light weapons (SALW)
and its manufacturing base remains active, if reduced. Following
substantial international support, legislation on arms production
and exports has recently been reformed and improved, incorporating
international standards and establishing a control system at the
state level. As always, however, concerns about implementation
prevail due to inadequately functioning regulatory procedures
and a lack of operational capacity.
25. It is clear that the military industry
in BiH still needs to be brought under tighter control in order
to prevent illegal arms exports. There are currently 169 weapon
stockpiles in the country, which makes guarding them expensive
and difficult, and provides criminals with a number of potential
targets. Reducing this number is an important means of stabilising
26. Possession and collection: Anecdotal
testimony from discussions with government officials suggests
that there are around four weapons for every 10 people in BiH.
Weapons collection initiativesorganised by NATOhave
been ongoing since 1998, with approximately 22,000 SALW collected
so far and large caches still being discovered on a fairly regular
27. As NATO prepares to reduce its presence,
a greater role in SALW collection is likely to be played by the
CPA, a body that can loosely be described as the police reserve.
It is unlikely that the EU force that will succeed SFOR (in early
2005) will have a mandate for weapons collection, as it will be
monitoring rather than implementing the Dayton Accords.
28. The new Macedonian government of President
Branko Crvenkovski promises to build on the level of stability
the country has achieved since ending open conflict between the
two dominant ethnic populations in the country. The signing of
the Ohrid Framework Agreement in August 2001 brought to an end
two years of low-intensity conflict and facilitated a de-mobilisation
of ethnic-Albanian guerrilla fighters. The active participation
of the Macedonian Government in international discourse on arms
control, its public statements and its action at the national
levelincluding recent development of a new draft law on
civilian possession, indicate that SALW control is a high priority
for the country.
29. The problem of small arms in Macedonia
is a question of both politics and policing, resulting from internal
challenges and the country's vulnerability to influence from its
neighbours. The fighting in 2001 clearly had an impact on increasing
the number of weapons in the country, as did the looting of stockpiles
in Albania in 1997. Yet, possession had risen significantly throughout
the 1990s, particularly following independence when police noted
a dramatic increase in illicit SALW trafficking, even before violence
30. Since the signing of the Ohrid Framework
Agreement, progress has been made in collecting weapons. There
have been two main collection initiatives. The first"Operation
Essential Harvest"was undertaken in 2001 by NATO's
Task Force Harvest. Its mission was to collect the arms and ammunition
voluntarily surrendered by the ethnic Albanian armed groups involved
in the peace negotiations. A total of 3,875 weapons were collected.
The second, facilitated by UNDP in late 2003, was deemed a success
by government and national observers alike. Despite the short
period allocated for public awareness raising and for the amnesty,
over 6,000 weapons were surrendered in the space of a month.
Major Security Challenges
31. Implementing the Ohrid Accords: The
major components of the agreement were to institute a process
of decentralization, recognise Albanian language educational institutions
and establish proportional representation in government. The implementation
of the Agreement is progressing slowly and with difficulty. It
is incumbent on bilateral and multilateral donors to assist those
involved in this process, as it is the key factor in Macedonia's
32. Inadequate law enforcement: Although,
to a large degree, insurgency activity has subsided, population
transfers continue and if Macedonia is to remain a non-segregated,
multi-ethnic state then an effective multi-ethnic police force
is central. Since its deployment, the multi-ethnic police (MEP)
force has presided over a marked improvement in the levels of
violence and intimidation. Nevertheless, borders, especially those
between Albania/Macedonia/Kosovo/southern Serbia, are poorly controlled
with the mountainous terrain offering cover to smugglers.
33. The Government apportions much of the
blame for Macedonia's problems on Albania and Kosovo, and in the
past the Macedonian Government has been reluctant to co-operate
on cross-border control. Although there are now joint UN-Macedonia
patrols of the Kosovo-Macedonia frontier, the capacity of the
police to act against cross-border crime is extremely poor and
there is little capacity for intelligence processing and exchange.
The situation is further complicated by the variety of different
institutions and forces involved in border management and security.
The EU is funding the reform and strengthening of border controls
and integrated border management.
34. A number of impediments stand in the
way of Serbia-Montenegro's moves towards political and social
stability and economic health.
35. On a political level these include Serbia's
relationship with the International Criminal Tribunal for the
former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the unresolved status of Kosovo where
poor ethnic relations continue to undermine democratisation efforts,
and the increasingly unmanageable state-union relationship between
Serbia and Montenegro
36. On an institutional level the lack of
capacity amongst the police and judiciary causes serious credibility
problems and creates a distance between the public and these institutions.
The army enjoys relatively more respect but is under resourced
and in need of wide reaching reform.
37. Living standards in Serbia-Montenegro
are still some six years away from returning to the levels enjoyed
in 1990. The legacy of hyper-inflation and sanctions continues
to be felt by a population who have turnedin increasing
numbersto the grey and black economies, often as a matter
38. While the state is no longer host to
active ethnic conflicts, tension remains in southern parts where
the minority Albanian population lives, problematically, next
to Serbs, and in the north in Vojvodina where ethnic Hungarians
and Serbs have recently clashed. Overall, however, the picture
in Serbia and Montenegro is one that shows signs of improvement,
helped significantly by the election of President Tadic in June.
Major Security Challenges
39. Weapons Possession: There are over 1.25
million registered weapons amongst the country's 8 million people.
Laws on civilian possession are weak, with insufficient checks
made on applicants, and a lack of willingness of the police and
judiciary to prosecute breaches in the law.
40. Private Security Firms: In Serbia, around
45,000 licenses have been granted to private security firms that
are often involved in criminal activity. Licensees may carry high
calibre weapons publicly and there is evidence that political
parties are in control of their own armed security firmseffectively,
militias. This is an area of major concern and one that needs
new legislation to combat the threat of well-armed civilian militias.
41. Exports: Serbia produces and exports
small arms and has, in the past, been involved in highly questionable
exports to many countries, some of which have been subject to
EU or UN arms embargos, such as Democratic Republic of Congo,
Liberia and Iraq. The capacity of competent ministries to license
exports in line with international best practice has increased,
however, there remains a lot of secrecy and very limited transparency
surrounding the issue.
42. A new export law, written with the help
of EU members, will greatly increase effective oversight of export
decisions, but its passage through parliament is currently undermined
by a lack of political will. Adoption of the principles underpinning
the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports would greatly improve the
situation, although for this to be effective it would need to
be supported significantlyfinancially and technicallyby
the EU and its member states.
43. Organised Crime: Indigenous entrenched
and organised criminals are a major source of instability in the
country, in southeast Europe and in the EU. In certain parts of
the country they exert more influence over the public than the
state, and provide benefactors with enormous wealth that fosters
more crime, deprives the state of revenue and fuels conflict.
44. In order for the state to close these
criminal networks, law enforcement agencies must be provided with
the means to tackle these powerful groups through trans-national
mechanisms such as the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative
(SECI) Centre and EUROPOL. Political will is also needed to distance
the interests of conservative political elites from organised
45. Outlined below are a series of priorities
for the UK government and the EU to support effective arms control
in the western Balkans. Saferworld will provide a detailed iteration
of each of these priorities on request:
Support the establishment of National Commissions
in the Western Balkans that bring together all relevant government
departments to coordinate action to tackle the spread of small
arms. These bodies should also coordinate action with civil society
organisations, donors and international organisations. This is
a requirement of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms.
Encourage comprehensive national assessments
of the small arms problem and the development of National Action
Plans. The lack of detailed information about the nature and extent
of the small arms problem hampers effective responses and encourages
piecemeal action. Comprehensive national strategies are needed
that address all issuesfrom strengthening legislation,
to combating illicit trafficking and reducing the demand for weapons.
Build the capacity of law enforcement officers
to enforce controls on illicit trafficking and organised crime.
The work of the SECI taskforce on small arms should be supported
in this regard. There should be increased cooperation between
EU and Western Balkan law enforcement officers.
Engage Western Balkans governments in a dialogue
on strengthening arms export controls. The objective should be
to encourage them to endorse the principles underpinning the EU
Code of Conduct on Arms Exports and then help build their capacity
to implement them.
Integrate action to tackle small arms proliferation
into existing police reform, governance and justice reform programmes
and improve their coordination. International actors are supporting
a myriad of programmes but these are often poorly coordinated
and initiatives to reduce the proliferation of small arms are
rarely integrated into them.
12 October 2004
27 For the purposes of this submission this submission
covers: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia
and Montenegro. Back