More than 20 years after the end of Yugoslavia wars, I went to Croatia to attend the 13th International Symposium and Equipment Exhibition “Mine Action 2016”
Talking to the people I met in Biograd na Moru, I see how the Croatian War for Independence is a traumatic memory. The younger generation who were 15 years old when the war took place have adapted and now they have families and jobs. For them, it is easier to talk about the past. ‘Many people left Croatia and migrated to Germany or Hungary as war refugees and have returned only after peace has been restored. Other people like me, we stayed’. – says Maria, who is aged 41 and lives and works in Biograd. ‘There were many houses that have been destroyed by grenades but now everything is refurbished and/or rebuilt’.
‘ We wanted to be an independent country and the Serbs started doing nasty things to us.’ – she continues. Older generation people, like Maria’s parents, have this to say: ‘We saw many things we want to forget. This is a trauma. I do not want to remember’.
Croatia, which I am now exploring, has existed since the 7th century when Croats arrived during the Slavic settlement at the Eastern Alps and it was in the 9th century when an independent Kingdom of Croatia was established.
During the 15th century it was part of the Venetian Republic known as Venetian Dalmatian until 1797 when Napoleonic wars started and the Venetian Republic was dissolved.
Former Yugoslavia came into existence only after World War I, in 1918 when Croatia was included in the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs and merged into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Therefore, Yugoslavia had always contained the spirit of its independent kingdoms.
In the period 1991-1995 the wars for independence started with the 10 days war of Slovenia in 1991 followed by the Croatian war of Independence which was fought during the four years following its declaration on the 25th of June 1991.
The following wars
Bosnian War (1992–1995)
Kosovo War (1998–1999), including the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia
Insurgency in the Preševo Valley (1999–2001)
Insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia (2001)
blocked the Balkans affecting economically neighboring countries due to military actions and the embargo on Former Yugoslavia (November 21, 1995) the consequences of which had a long lasting effect in Europe.
The two maps above overlap the up to date minefields map with the map of the Political division of Bosnia and Herzegovina after the Dayton Agreement, – signed in Paris on 14 December 1995.
‘These munitions – remnants from the former Yugoslav National Army or accumulated during the war – still pose a threat to Bosnia and Herzagovina. Approximately 14,000 tons of ammunition remains scattered around the country at 15 storage sites controlled by the Armed Forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
This stock of unstable ammunition presents a significant risk to ordinary citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Additionally, the maintenance and physical security of this material is a continuous, expensive drain on the Armed Forces of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s budget’.
Glamoč Ammunition Destruction Range is known as the place where small arms and light weapons (SALW) are destroyed at a pace of 2 tons/day. Munitions that cannot be disassembled due to age, condition or other technical issues are sent to Sterling at Glamoč.
‘The Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina determined that it would take a disproportionate amount of time and resources to disassemble these munitions and then dispose of the primers, powder, warheads, tracers and cartridge cases. These munitions were therefore marked for destruction by open burning and open detonation.
Destroying the 2 million 20mm rounds classified by Bosnia and Herzegovina for destruction would cost approximately $4.25 million in explosives alone—not including the cost of technicians, support staff and other project requirements’.
A view from a minefield after the ‘treatment’ with heavy armored vehicles which explode directly the land mines.
I can see my project implemented at this stage:
- new vegetation will show presence of N14 – based explosive materials
- plants will absorb and therefore purify the soil from toxic contamination