Strengthening Safety and Security through Regional Cooperation in South East Europe
The large scale accumulation of small arms and light weapons in South East Europe (SEE) has been recognized as an important challenge for international efforts to combat trafficking of small arms and light weapons (SALW) and their ammunition. The countries in the Western Balkans have been of a particular concern due to their history of weapons exports. Establishing strong and efficient control mechanisms for arms transfers would constitute a significant contribution to international peace and security.
Thus, compliance with the relevant European Union (EU) legislation and policies concerning SALW is highly desirable for the nations of the Western Balkans as they move towards further European integration. In particular, the Western Balkans countries have to comply with the Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP, adopted on 8 December 2008, defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment.
In 2006 SEESAC undertook an assessment of the SEE countries' national legislation on exports control. Based on that study SEESAC initiated, with the SEE countries, the process of developing Annual National Reports on arms exports in line with the requirements established by the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports. After three years of targeted assistance the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are capable of producing national arms exports reports. Annual National Reports can be found on the SEESAC website.
In 2009 SEESAC achieved a major political breakthrough at a regional level by securing political support for the development of a Regional Report on Arms Exports, which follows closely the format of the EU Annual Exports Report, as well as for the launching of the Regional Information Exchange Process (RIEP) on the existing national polices on exports control.
These regional meetings, nine of which have take place thus far, bring together representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, and directly contribute to the regional confidence building and increase transparency among the SEE countries. Five regional reports published to date can be found on the SEESAC website.
Within the framework of regional information exchange process, SEESAC has facilitated the creation of a Brokering Database - a truly unique tool, designed to help participating countries exchange important information and be better informed as they conduct their daily arms control duties. Each participating country has provided a full and updated list of registered arms brokers and their contact information which can now be accessed through the brokering database, available at the SEESAC website only, by the authorized government counterparts from each of the participating countries. In close collaboration with the participants of RIEP, SEESAC continues to develop and expand the scope of the information contained in the Database.
SEESAC has worked closely with the Parliamentary Forum on SALW by organizing training events for the members of the SEE Parliaments on the EU SALW policies and regulations. SEESAC has also established close cooperation with the parliamentary network established and supported by the Regional Cooperation Council. This further enabled SEESAC to engage MPs from the SEE Parliaments in capacity building activities on parliamentary oversight for security sector reform issues and arms exports control.
Since 1 January 2010, SEESAC's Arms Export Control activities have been generously supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway. In July 2013, the Norwegian MFA decided to continue its support through the Phase II of SEESAC’s Arms Export Control Programme in the Western Balkans project, which will last until June 2015.