by Adam Gosney [ Mine Action Information Center ]
Graphic courtesy of MAIC
On 25 June 1991, Croatia became an independent nation. Serbian and Yugoslav forces soon invaded the country, with the area known as Slavonia being a major battleground changing hands frequently throughout the conflict. The Dayton Peace Accords in November 1995 ended the fighting and Slavonia returned to Croatia on 15 January 1998. In 2003 Croatia applied for European Union membership and in 2004 received official candidate status. Prime Minister Ivo Sanader stated that 2007 is a critical year if Croatia wishes to become an EU member. While not directly included in these discussions, Croatia's substantial mine-affected areas are seen as a humanitarian concern.
The primary focus of mine action in Croatia centers upon agricultural land and areas near population centers, while most of the unexploded ordnance from the war resides within mountainous and high-wilderness areas. Since 1991, over 1,880 victims have suffered as a result of explosive remnants of war.1 Between 1998 and 2007 the number of ERW-related victims was 273, with 101 being killed. As of 2004, 14 of 21 counties were believed to contain contaminated areas equaling 1,174 square kilometers (453 square miles). By the end of 2006, mine-suspected areas had decreased to 12 counties, covering an area of 1,044 square kilometers (403 square miles). Within that area, 250 square kilometers (112 square miles) are "high priority" and include agricultural areas, houses and yards, infrastructure, meadows, and pastures.2
Croatia signed the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention3 on 4 December 1997 and became a State Party in 1999. It completed the destruction of its anti-personnel mine stockpile in October 2002. During November–December 2005 and for most of 2006, Croatia served as president of the Sixth Meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa Convention. While serving as the 6MSP president, Croatia focused on the need to be strict in regards to all ERW.4
In February 1998 the government of the Republic of Croatia established the Croatian Mine Action Center to manage and coordinate mine-action activities in Croatia. Several organizations are involved in mine action in Croatia. Some of these groups include Adopt-A-Minefield, the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance, Norwegian People's Aid, the Croatian Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Bembo Association, and many others. AAM raised US$4 million dollars in 2006 and is beginning to work in mine-risk education as well.5 In Croatia, 28 commercial mine-clearance companies and the NPA utilize 583 deminers, 45 demining machines and 103 mine-detection dogs to perform demining.
According to Kristina Ikić Baniček of CROMAC, the country's goal for removing all known minefields by March 2009 depends upon funding.2 During 2006 a total of 25 square kilometers (10 square miles) was cleared and 78 square kilometers (30 square miles) were released through survey. Items destroyed included 1,514 anti-personnel mines, 1,184 anti-vehicle mines and 5,409 items of unexploded ordnance. These efforts led to a decrease of 103 square kilometers (40 square miles) of mine-suspected area in Croatia.
A majority of MSAs are located in wooded, mountainous areas. More tourists are visiting these remote areas for hiking and camping, so their importance has increased. Baniček explains, "If some mountain area has some significance in relation to nature preservation, protection of plants and animal species or even just as a fire-prevention line or forest-exploitation line, then [CROMAC has] no problem convincing the funding party that it is a good project" worthy of their funding.2
The Croatian Red Cross in Vinkovci performed a theatrical show called "Mines are an Invisible Killer" for 100 children in early 2006. The CRC program "Playgrounds Without Mines," has installed over 40 playgrounds in 14 counties since 2001. Using funds from donors, the CRC assists local communities in building playgrounds so children will not play in mine-suspected areas.6 The CRC and CROMAC also visit schools and inform children and their parents about ERW.
Since 2002, Norwegian People's Aid and the Bembo Association have used Croatian celebrities in their play, "Bembo and Friends Against Mines," to educate young children about ERW. In 2005, NPA, CMVA and the Bembo Association organized 10 MRE plays in seven municipalities in NPA areas of operation for 3,000 people (two-thirds were children). During April and May 2006, NPA and the Bembo Association organized 16 more shows in elementary schools, which were widely publicized through mass-media coverage; over 2,000 children and 20 teachers attended.7
Croatia has made significant gains in mine action. With such CROMAC projects as the Geo Information Project database and the Scan Center,8 Croatia is developing and using technology to identify MSAs at a rate never seen before. Several factors depend on 100-percent removal becoming a reality, but CROMAC is optimistic that with this amount of MSA cleared over the past nine years, Croatia is on its way to becoming completely mine-free.
Adam Gosney worked as an Editorial Assistant for the Journal of Mine Action from October 2006 to May 2007. He received his Bachelor of Arts in history and economics from James Madison University in May 2007. He intends to pursue a career in historic preservation and post-secondary education.
- Editor's Note: Some organizations consider mines and ERW to be two separate entities, since they are regulated by different legal documents (the former by the Ottawa Convention and Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the latter by CCW Protocol V). However, since mines are explosive devices that have similar effects to other ERW and it is often impossible to separate the two during clearance operations, some in the community have adopted a "working definition" (as opposed to a legal one) of ERW in which it is a blanket term that includes mines, UXO, abandoned explosive ordnance and other explosive devices.
- E-mail interview with Kristina Ikić Baniček of Croatian Mine Action Center, 9 February 2007.
- Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, Oslo, Norway. 18 September 1997. The document was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, 3 December 1997, and thus is commonly known as the Ottawa Convention.
- In relation to Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention, Croatia took sometimes controversial stances. In regards to Article 1, Croatia forbid passage of anti-personnel mines through Croatian territory. In Article 2, Croatia claimed tilt-rod mines as anti-personnel mines. In these two examples, and countless others, Croatia, while president of the 6MSP, took the initiative to expand what should be considered ERW and what should be prohibited from use.
- E-mail interview with Zach Hudson, Program Manager of Adopt-A-Minefield. 31 January 2007.
- "Croatia: Safe Playgrounds in Danger Zones." International Committee of the Red Cross. 30 September 2005. http://www.icrc.org/Web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/croatia-mines-300905. Accessed 29 May 2007.
- "Croatia." Landmine Monitor Report, 2006. 12 September 2006. http://www.icbl.org/lm/2006/croatia.html. Accessed 30 May 2007.
- These two programs created a digital topographic database for all demining agencies to use. They are financed by the Kingdom of Norway and the Croatian government. With over 2,500 military maps scanned in 2005 alone, mine surveying becomes more manageable and precise.
- "Croatia." Journal of Mine Action. Spring 2000, Issue 4.1. p. 78. http://maic.jmu.edu/journal/4.1/croatia.htm. Accessed 3 January 2007.
- "Mine Victims and Mine Victims Care." Croatian Mine Action Center. http://www.hcr.hr/index.php?link=edukacija&lang=en. Accessed 8 February 2007.
- Ilic, Igor. "Croat PM vows to press on with EU reforms in 2007." Reuters, 5 January 2007. http://today.reuters.com/news/articleinvesting.aspx?type=comktnews&storyID=2007-01-05T125904Z_01_L05597574_RTRIDST_0_CROATIA-SANADER-PICTURE.XML. Accessed 12 January 2007.
- "Croatia." Journal of Mine Action. Summer 2005, Issue 9.1. p. 76. http://maic.jmu.edu/journal/9.1/Profiles/croatia.htm. Accessed 3 January 2007.
- "Croatia." Landmine Monitor Report, 2006. 12 September 2006. http://www.icbl.org/lm/2006/croatia.html. Accessed 3 January 2007. Last updated 12 September 2006.
- "2006 Humanitarian Demining Plan." Republic of Croatia. January 2006. Can be viewed at http://www.hcr.hr/pdf/humanitarian_demining_plan.pdf. Accessed 7 January 2007.
- Monko, Marcin. "Croatia: safe playgrounds in danger zones." International Committee of the Red Cross. 30 September 2005. http://www.icrc.org/Web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/croatia-mines-300905. Accessed 20 February 2007.
Journal of Mine Action
Mine Action Information Center
Program Director, Humanitarian Campaigns
Adopt-A-Minefield and HERO
801 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017 / USA
Tel: +1 212 907 1305
Fax: +1 212 682 9185
Web site: http://www.landmines.org
Kristina Ikić Baniček
Advisor for International Cooperation and Donations
Croatian Mine Action Center
Ante Kovačića 10
44 000 Sisak / Croatia
Tel: +385 44 554 110
Fax: +385 44 554 142
Web site: http://www.hcr.hr