Western Balkan Authorities Take Stock of the Roadmap Implementation Progress at Its Ninth Regional Coordination Meeting

Western Balkan authorities were taking stock of the progress in implementing the Roadmap for a Sustainable Solution to the Illegal Possession, Misuse and Trafficking of SALW and Their Ammunition in the Western Balkans by 2024 (Roadmap) at the 9th Regional Roadmap Coordination meeting which took place in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on 04-05 July 2023. The meeting brought together more than 100 participants attending both in person and online, representatives from the Small Arms and Light Weapons Commissions in the Western Balkans, international organizations involved in arms control in the region, and the key donors – the European Union, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and United Kingdom.

During the meeting, participants reviewed the progress made on each of the seven goals of the Roadmap, discuss the findings and immediate follow-up to the Mid-Term Review of the Roadmap. Additionally, they discussed the contributions from implementing partners and donor support in the Roadmap implementation.

H.E. Nenad Nešić, the Minister of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, opened the meeting by stressing the significant security challenge posed by arms illicit possession and trafficking in the region. He emphasized the need for continuous and joint action to address these issues and pointed out the importance of harmonized legal framework on arms control, enhancement of law enforcement capacities to tackle firearms related crimes and working towards further decreasing illegal possession of firearms through measures of awareness, legalization and voluntary surrender.

H.E. Olivier Caron, French Special Envoy for Counterterrorism and the Fight against Organized Crime, underscored the importance and impact of the Western Balkans Roadmap, for the security of the region but also for its political stability. He highlighted the political significance of the Roadmap in promoting regional cooperation and ensuring a common, secure future. He emphasized the need for standardization of approaches, particularly through the harmonization of legislation, as a prerequisite for sustaining the Roadmap's results.

Mr. Albrecht von Wittke, Head of Division for Conventional Arms Control at the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, expressed gratitude to the authorities for their dedication to implementing the Roadmap. He reflected on the recent tragic events in the region involving firearms and emphasized the importance of working on small arms and light weapons control both locally and across Europe. He also highlighted the unanimous readiness of the participants of the High Level Meeting in Brussels to continue supporting the Roadmap implementation beyond 2024. Mr. von Wittke also praised in particular the authorities for operationalizing their Firearms Focal Points (FFPs) as critical units in improving investigations of firearms related crimes.

Mr. Karel Lizerot, Head of Section for Justice and Home Affairs, Migration, and Public Administration Reform at the EU Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, focused on the results and remaining gaps in implementing the Roadmap, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He reassured the participants about EU’s continuous support for the Roadmap's implementation.

Mr. Vitalie Vremis, Chief, Country Office Support/Manager (OiC) of UNDP's Istanbul Regional Hub, highlighted reminded the participants on some recent statistics related to firearms misuse in the region by empasizing the need for comprehensive measures to address armed violence. He noted the success achieved through the Roadmap's implementation and the substantial support provided by UNDP to the region's authorities.

Ms. Jorida Shytaj, Senior Political Advisor of the Regional Cooperation Council, acknowledged the invaluable and long-term partnership and commitment of Western Balkan authorities with the continuous support of the European Union, Germany, and France to the Roadmap implementation. She praised the Roadmap as an exemplary demonstration of cooperation, transparency, and a coordinated approach in the region. Ms. Shytaj highlighted the pressing issue of firearm incidents related to domestic violence in the region and called for continued efforts to address these challenges alongside broader firearm-related issues.

The meeting recognized that in the implementation of the Roadmap there has been notable progress in raising awareness about the dangers of firearm misuse through public education. Additionally, the participants noted that a remarkable milestone has been achieved by seizing the highest number of firearms and ammunition at borders since 2018. Furthermore, a downward trend in firearm incidents since 2018 showcases effective efforts in promoting public safety, the participants agreed.

Progress made in operationalizing firearms focal points, enhancing information exchange with the EU and its law enforcement agencies, strengthening capacities for investigating, detecting, and analyzing firearms-related crimes was also highlighted during the meeting.

To sustain the progress, the participants agreed, it is vital to maintain and reinforce this exceptional model of regional cooperation. As a concrete result from the 9th Regional Roadmap Coordination meeting, the participants also agreed on the proposed steps for the development of the Revised Roadmap beyond 2024.

The Roadmap was developed by the Western Balkans authorities with SEESAC’s technical support, under the auspices of the Governments of Germany and France and with the support of the European Union and other relevant actors. It was adopted by the region’s leaders at the London Summit in July 2018.

The Regional Roadmap Coordination Meetings are organized with the funding support of the European Union through its Council Decision 2022/1654, amending Decision 2018/1788 in support of SEESAC for the implementation of the Regional Roadmap on combating illicit arms trafficking in the Western Balkans.

For more information on the meeting: 9th Regional coordination meeting.