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Issue 7.2, August 2003

Mine Problem in the Region of Southeastern Europe: The ITF and SEEMACC

SE Europe is one of the most mine-affected regions in the world. This article examines the extent of the mine and UXO problem in each of the mine-affected countries in SE Europe, as well as discusses the steps being taken by various organizations in order to solve the mine-related problems in the region.

by Damir Goršeta, SEEMACC and Eva Veble and Sabina Beber, ITF

Mine Problem of the Countries in SE Europe

Unlike other multiethnic states, the former Yugoslavia has fallen apart as a result of war conflicts, which have left large mined areas all over SE Europe. Mine contamination has impacted all countries of the former Yugoslavia and also Albania. Consequently, SE Europe has become one of the most mine-contaminated regions in the world. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Croatia, Macedonia and Yugoslavia face considerable mine and UXO problems, with BiH and Croatia being the most affected. The table below shows the extent of mine contamination in each of the respective countries.

Mine Contamination Indicators Mine-Contaminated Countries
MINE- CONTAMINATED AREA 15.2 sq km 2130.6 sq km 1,700 sq km 21 sq km 39 sq km 45 sq km
INITIAL MINE CONTAMINATION ESTIMATE 170 sq km 4,000 sq km 13,000 sq km 80 sq km 100 sq km 80 sq km
NUMBER OF MINES AND UXO Unknown 670,000 mines
650,000 UXO
500,000 mines
400,000 UXO
2,000 mines
70,000 UXO
71,000 mines
63 missiles
25,000 mines 22,000 UXO
NUMBER OF MINE VICTIMS 232 4,535 1,838 18 350 461
NUMBER OF MINES PER SQ KM Unknown / high- density minefields 19.5 8.8 0.07 0.69 2.2
PERIOD OF MINE DEPLOYMENT 1999 1992–1995 1991–1995 2001 1999 1999
RATIFICATION OF THE OTTAWA TREATY 2000 1998 1998 2001 2003  
NUMBER OF STOCKPILED MINES TO BE DESTROYED 1.68 million APLs destroyed on 4/4/02 532,556 APLs destroyed 230,000 APLs destroyed No existing data No existing data No existing data

Table 1: Mine Contamination in the Region of SE Europe. (Data gathered from Arben Braha, AMAE Director, Dušan Gavran, BHMAC Director, Oto Jungwirth, CROMAC Director, Petar Mihajlovic, MAC Belgrade Director, 8th SEEMACC meeting, February 11, 2003, Belgrade; Additional data gathered from Ljupce Zajakovski, Head of Macedonian Civil Defense, Agron Haziraj, Demining Quality Control Manager, Management Training, February 2002, Ljubljana).

Most of the landmines in SE Europe are of Yugoslav origin (i.e., they are the mines that were stockpiled by the Yugoslav army before the dissolution of former Yugoslavia). The following mines were most frequently used in the territory of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia:

A close-up of the steps involved in demining.


Conflict in Kosovo contributed to destabilizing this part of the region. During the Kosovo crisis in 1998–1999, a large number of mines were laid along the Kosovo-Albania border and into Albanian territory. In addition, there were unexploded shells, rockets and mortars left in the area. The mine-contaminated strip contains 85 high-risk areas and is 120 km long, stretching from Shishtavec in the south to Tropoje in the north. Thirty-nine villages in Albania are directly affected by mines—27 people have been killed and 216 have been injured by mine-related incidents.

In 1999, the government of Albania established the pillar of the Albanian Mine Action Program. The program policy and strategy were developed by the Albanian Mine Action Committee and implemented by the Albanian Mine Action Executive (AMAE). The presence of mines and UXO on the Albania-Kosovo border in the northeast not only poses a physical threat to the population, but also prevents the use of the land. In addition, refugees returning in 1999 led to safety concerns in the underdeveloped border area. Removal of the landmine threat combined with the stability of the campaign, “Weapons in Exchange for Development,” as well as stockpile destruction, will help the development of these areas.

With donors’ support, AMAE has demined an area of 0.5 sq km. In 2002, Albania set up a mine action strategy that foresees Albania free of mines and UXO by 2010. Albania wishes to eliminate the impact of mines and UXO in the northeastern part of Albania by 2005. Stockpile destruction in Albania, destroying 1,683,860 mines, was completed on April 4, 2002. In 2003, Albanian plans to conduct a general survey of a 1.9-sq-km area and a technical survey of a 1.5-sq-km area and demine a 350,000-sq-m area.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Besides Croatia, BiH is the most mine- and UXO-contaminated country in the SE Europe. Mine-suspected area covers approximately 2130.6 sq km in BiH, which represents 4.17 percent of all its territory. After the analysis was conducted, it was estimated that there are approximately 670,000 mines and 650,000 items of UXO in approximately 10,000 locations. Mine-suspected areas are defined as unused areas because of the possible risk of mines and UXO. The mine-suspected area structure is divided into three categories according to demining priority:

The Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Center (BHMAC) was founded in 1996 by the United Nations Mine Action Center (UNMAC). In 1998, the responsibility for demining activities was handed over to the government of BiH, with significant financial support from the international community. The legal framework for the implementation of humanitarian demining was created at the beginning of 2002, when the Demining Law in BiH was passed. The Demining Law defines demining and the organizational structure of demining, and determines the implementing organizations and their tasks. The law also regulates demining methodology and defines the content of the demining plan. The focus is put on regulation of deminers’ rights and relations, demining methods and quality control of the demining operations.

The mine action strategy for BiH encompasses the mine action vision and mission, strategic and operational goals, precise strategic plan and strategic projects. The mission is considered to be the creation of prerequisites for the protection of the population and the development of economic and natural resources in BiH until 2010. Strategic goals are creating the conditions for constant and efficient implementation of demining; extensive mine risk education (MRE) and marking and fencing; capacity building; development of new technologies; international cooperation; revival of donors’ interest; and monitoring the implementation of the Ottawa Convention commitments. The following five strategic projects are presented in the strategy:

The organizational structure of demining consists of the mine action authorities on a national level within BiH, entity level and international level. They are:

The Demining Commission is a central demining authority that was founded by a Decree of the Council of Ministers of BiH and is directly responsible to the Ministry of Civil Affairs and Communications. The committee’s task is to present mine information (both problems and actions) to the national and international public, to approve demining standards, to nominate candidates for BHMAC’s Director and Assistants’ positions, to authorize internal rules and regulations, to prepare and submit reports to the Council of Ministers and donors and to route funds needed for mine action. BHMAC is an operational service of the committee tasked with the following:

During the past year, significant progress in mine action activities has been noted in
BiH. It is manifested in the following parameters: passage of legislation, creation of a demining strategy for BiH, execution of systematic survey, reorganization and establishment of the new organizational structure of BHMAC, development of demining capacities (41 demining organizations) and engagement of the army and Civil Defense in mine action. The biggest concern in BiH is the slow pace of demining and the large number of mine incidents (80–100 casualties per year).


The war in Croatia lasted from 1991–1995, leaving approximately 500,000 mines and 400,000 pieces of UXO planted and scattered in Croatia. At the end of 2002, mine-contaminated area was estimated at 1,630 sq km (170 sq km of minefields and around 1,460 sq km containing individual mines—mine-suspected area not used by citizens). In 1996, the United Nations estimated the mine-contaminated area of Croatia to be 13,000 sq km.

The Croatian Mine Action Center (CROMAC) has a database on minefields. The data is taken from original minefield records of the warring parties that laid the minefields. In the database, 132,186 APLs and 79,408 ATMs are recorded—totaling 211,594 mines overall. The database on mine-suspected areas is based on collected reports from various military personnel, as well as from civilians. Fourteen counties are considered to be mine-contaminated; the most mine-contaminated counties are: Osjecko-baranjska, Sisacko-moslavacka, Vukovarsko-srijemska, Karlovacka and Zadarska. There is also a great concentration of mines around the cities that are located on the former confrontation line: Sisak, Benkovac, Karlovac, Knin, Osijek and Vukovar. Realizing all the problems that mine wars encompass, Croatia proclaimed a Moratorium on usage, production, import, export and stockpiling of landmines in April 1996. In addition, Croatia was one of the first countries to support the Ottawa process; it cooperated in the preparation of the Convention and signed it in December 1997. Croatia was the 12th country among the signatory states that ratified the Convention. Croatia finished destroying its stockpiled mines by the end of 2002.

Analyzing the mine action situation and the impact of mines on safety, humanitarian,
environmental, economic and developmental problems of SE Europe, it can be concluded that Croatia inputs significant resources in mine action and that it achieves good results. The results can especially be seen through:


In Macedonia, mine-suspected area covers 21 sq km with 2,000 mines and 70,000 pieces of UXO, and spreads along the border with the province of Kosovo (Serbia and Montenegro). There is no existing mine action system and mine action activities are carried out by Civil Defense Forces. Demining activities started in October 2001 and 30 villages and roads in the area of Tetovo and Kumanovo were cleared. During 2002, the ITF trained a part of the personnel to conduct mine action activities. During the same year, ITF contracted a non-governmental organization (NGO) from BiH that cleared 3.5 million sq m and surveyed 3,000 houses and yards. The fact that the Albanian People’s Army demined their minefields is quite unique for Macedonia.

In Macedonia, there are leftover mines from World War I and II along the Greek border near Dorjansko-jezero, where 1,000 mines are located each year. The mine action activities in Macedonia serve as a positive example of a possible regional cooperation with a NGO from BiH conducting a significant part of battle area clearance activities in Macedonia, in a quite short period of time. ITF’s involvement through a “Train and Equip” training program to swiftly build a mine action capacity in Macedonia, also represents a positive step forward. Due to the small amount of mine-suspected area, well-coordinated activities by the UN Mine Action Office (UNMAO) and ITF, training of locals in all aspects of mine action, and arrival of trained teams from BiH, it is likely that the mine impact in Macedonia will be eliminated by the end of 2003.

Serbia and Montenegro

Mines and UXO originate from the war in Croatia, from the Kosovo conflict and from
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Forces engagement in Yugoslavia. There are many discarded cluster bombs as a direct result of that engagement. Mine contamination covers approximately a 39 sq km area. Twenty-nine sq km are contaminated with cluster bombs in several locations: Niš (total of three sub-locations covering the area of two sq km; Kraljevo (total of three sub-locations covering the area of one sq km); Sjenica (total of two sub-locations covering the area of 16 sq km ); Merdare (total of two sub-locations covering the area of three sq km); Kopaonik (total of two sub-locations covering the area of six sq km); Cacak (one location covering the area of 0.7 sq km); and Vladimirci (one location covering the area of 0.2 sq km).

The mine-contaminated area consists of 10 sq km and is divided into and along the borderline with the Republic of Croatia with 103 minefields covering a 41.5-sq-km area that includes approximately 11,000 mines. There were no military actions in this area so the minefields were laid as a means of precaution along the so-called “tank advancement lines,” as well as to prevent the possible advancement of ground infantry. According to the available mine records of the former Yugoslav army, a number of minefields were “reinforced” by placing APMs (PMA-1) under some mines in the minefields. Serbia and Montenegro signed the Ottawa Convention as the last state in SE Europe and ratified the agreement in June 2003.

The province of Kosovo is also mine-contaminated. Six hundred minefields covering the area of 30.5 sq km have been demined with 18,000 APLs, 5,500 ATMs and around 13,500 pieces of UXO cleared. There are still dangerous areas around former stockpiles that were bombed during NATO attacks. The United Nations Office of Project Service (UNOPS) has played an important role in supporting the Kosovo mine action activities. It was UNOPS’s judgment that allowed the mine and UXO problems in Kosovo to be minimized by the end of 2001. Experts say that the level of impact is similar, if not lower than the level of impact in other European countries still disposing UXO from World War I. For example, Slovenia still disposes of approximately 3,000 located items of UXO per year, mostly from World War I and II. UNMAC has trained several members of the Kosovo Protection Corps (seven teams), thus enabling them to tackle and solve the remaining mine and UXO-related problems.

Kosovo stands out as an example of fast and efficient UN capacity-building activities that led to the first successfully completed mine action campaign in the world. However, there is still a need to continue with mine action activities due to the fact that mine-contaminated areas are still recorded, as well as mine incidents, even though the UN operations have been completed.

Montenegro also has a problem with mine and UXO contamination. The Croatia and
BiH borderline areas are contaminated and still not fully surveyed. Cooperation with Croatia started in that particular area with joint survey teams assessing the level of mine and UXO contamination of the Debeli-Brijeg borderline area. That was a first and important step in the joint effort of the multi-state survey teams. UXO disposed into the Adriatic Sea also presents a problem for Montenegro.

The ITF’s Role in SE Europe

ITF is a humanitarian, non-profit organization dedicated to clearing landmines in SE Europe and the world. When first established by the Slovenian government in March 2003, ITF was designed to assist BiH in solving its landmine problem and help the surviving landmine victims in terms of their physical and socio-economic rehabilitation. Because BiH was not the only country in SE Europe faced with a mine problem, it was natural that ITF should spread its activities to other mine-affected countries in the region. Thus, ITF’s area of operation presently includes Albania, BiH, Croatia, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro.

ITF seeks to attract public and private donors for mine action-related activities in SE Europe including mine clearance, landmine survivor assistance, MRE and training. While ITF has adopted a holistic approach to the landmine and UXO problem, we are also striving to meet the needs of mine-affected communities on the ground level. ITF is working closely with national governments and mine action centers (MACs) in the mine-affected countries to ensure that donated funds are spent on providing useful help to the local populations. To this end, ITF also initiated the establishment of SEEMACC.

The following activities are carried out by ITF:

MRE Programs

One of the main advantages for using the ITF for funding the mine action activities is our experience in the region with the issues involved because Slovenia used to be a part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Unlike the other countries of former Yugoslavia however, Slovenia does not have a mine problem. We understand the history, mentality and language spoken in the territories of the mine-contaminated countries, which makes it easier to coordinate our activities with the relevant national and local authorities. ITF also offers “tailoring” of projects, and provides transparency and visibility in spending donated funds, as well as the matching-fund mechanism. Some of the benefits that ITF provides are briefly discussed below.

Tailor-Made Projects

The donor decides which of the activities being implemented in the field of mine action in the region it wants to support. Consistent with the donor’s wishes, ITF will then develop and submit a proposal for a project to be funded. The project is thus designed in accordance with the preferences of the individual donor (country, activity, etc.). However, it also takes into account wishes and needs of the mine-affected country as well as the local community.

Coordination with National Authorities

ITF is working closely with the authorities responsible for mine action programs in SE Europe in order to ensure that the help and assistance provided are in fact needed and that the programs being implemented are coordinated with the national plans.


ITF’s tight internal financial management control and annual external audits ensure that donated funds are properly accounted for.

Visibility of Donations

The donor is assured of the visibility of its donation in the field as well as via periodic ITF publications and reports.

Matching-Fund Mechanism

The United States government has instituted a matching-fund mechanism, whereby every dollar raised by ITF is matched by an additional dollar provided by the United States government. These U.S. funds can be spent on the same project as the original donation (if the project has been deemed to qualify for the matching fund by both ITF and the United States) or alternatively, the money in the matching fund can be used to finance other mine action projects in SE Europe.

Monitoring and Evaluating

Prior to clearing, demining sites are inspected by ITF staff from the implementation offices to evaluate the demining priority of a given area. Relevant assessment and other reports must be written, taking into account various factors. Subject to donor request, ITF also employs a monitoring firm to oversee and monitor the work of the demining company on a daily basis, thus ensuring that the removal of mines is carried out in accordance with applicable standards and safety requirements. In 2002, ITF employed two monitoring firms—both were selected by tender. In addition, ITF conducts post-clearance checks in order to determine and assess the results of mine-clearance activities. With minor modifications and tailoring, the format used can also be applied to the evaluation and assessment of other mine action projects that are being implemented by ITF.

ITF Results in the SE Europe

The following sections discuss the impact of ITF in fundraising, demining activities and training in SE Europe.


From its inception until May 2003, ITF succeeded in raising more than $119 million (U.S.) from more than 24 countries, 30 organizations/companies and 100 individuals, as well as from the European Union (EU). The biggest donors to the ITF include Canada, Croatia, EU, Germany, Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland and the United States. While the majority of the donated funds have been spent on demining activities and MVA programs, some have been directed towards capacity building, MRE and other mine action related activities.


Demining/Battle Area Clearance

The ITF’s demining and battle area clearance operations are taking place in Albania, Croatia, BiH, Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro. The demining work is usually awarded through an open bid procedure that is conducted by the ITF. The demining work can also be awarded directly if this is an explicit wish of the donor. The work is closely monitored by the ITF staff as well as by the professional monitors employed by the ITF that visit the demining sites daily. Since ITF started the execution of the demining work, more than 30 different companies and eight NGOs executed demining work and cleared more than 37 million sq m of land with 17,956 mines and 16,067 pieces of UXO found.


Rehabilitation of mine victims is an important component of the program implemented by the ITF. When ITF was established in 1998, it set a goal of earmarking 15 percent of all donations for MVA-associated programs. Only 6.3 percent of funds have actually gone towards MVA. For that reason, the Workshop on Assistance to Landmine Survivors and Victims in SE Europe was organized July 1–2, 2002. The goal of the workshop was to identify possible strategies and venues for regional resourcing, cooperation and coordination in the field of landmine survivors and victim assistance. The goal of the workshop was achieved by presentations that included country status reports, perspectives on gaps and services in regional approaches, and NGO and donor perspectives on MVA. The workshop included extensive discussion among the participants on how to meet MVA needs and coordinate efforts more effectively.

The ITF MVA program is thus implemented on three different levels:


ITF believes that capacity building is crucial for the mine-affected countries of SE Euroope to be able to more effectively cope with the landmine problem. Therefore, ITF organizes and funds several training courses based on the identified needs that exist in the mine-affected countries in the region. The needs already identified steered us in the direction of organizing the following trainings:

In the field of mine victim rehabilitation, the technical assistance trainings and seminars are organized by the Slovenian Institute for Rehabilitation. The Slovenian Institute for Rehabilitation is also giving technical assistance to the mine-affected countries in SE Europe, which is crucial for the development of indigenous and sustainable local capacities. Until May 2003, 285 different experts from BiH, Kosovo (Serbia and Montenegro) and Albania attended training or seminars organized by the institute either in Slovenia or BiH. ITF funds the following programmes of training:

The fact is that this kind of training is not provided anywhere else in SE Europe. Qualified personnel are sorely lacking in the region; therefore, providing training opportunities for the demining personnel in SE Europe becomes even more important. The development of local structures and capabilities is crucial for the country to take ownership of the problem and provide its people with long-term solutions. Here are a few examples of the training sessions underway in SE Europe.

ITF is also planning to fund the execution of such trainings for the region of Caucasus.

Regional Approach: Does it Present a Value Added?

Regional cooperation in SE Europe has proven invaluable in many areas of mine action, ranging from a technical type of cooperation like identifying common demining projects on the borders of neighboring countries, to efforts of political significance in the process of post-conflict rehabilitation. The cooperation process was formalized in SEEMACC, in which ITF has become a focal point. It is ITF’s firm belief that regional cooperation has contributed, and will continue to contribute even more so in the future, to a more efficient use of resources for mine action in the region, as well as to the sharing of knowledge between the countries in the area of mine action. A regional approach can also be seen as a vehicle for a better utilization of available resources. The work done in the scope of SEEMACC is presented in the next section and the lessons learned in this region could perhaps prove invaluable for the other mine-contaminated regions in the world.


Several organizations and initiatives are active in SE Europe that all intend to assist in solving the mine problem in the region. They are: the United Nations, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the Ottawa Convention, the Stability Pact for SE Europe and the ITF. SEEMACC was also created as a regional mine action experts’ initiative. The directors of national MACs in SE Europe have expressed their wish for cooperation in mine action in order to improve the mine action programs. Their intent was shown in the agreement on the establishment of SEEMACC. Directors of the Albanian, Croatian and BiH MACs, as well as the ITF signed the agreement on November 11, 2000. Later, on November 30, 2001, the agreement was signed by the Montenegro and Yugoslavia MACs. On February 14, 2002, the process was continued when Azerbaijan became a full member of SEEMACC. The signatories emphasized the need for cooperation and support in the following fields:


The SEEMACC vision is to make SE Europe mine free by 2010, where the economical and social development will not be impeded by the threat of mines.


The mission of SEEMACC is to develop sustainable regional programs that will contribute to the mine-contaminated countries developing the capacities to demine and return the land to the local populations and enable economic, agricultural and tourism development. The programs are designed to prevent mine incidents, rehabilitate mine victims, help national programs to raise awareness of the mine problem, develop new technologies for mine detection, reduce mine-affected areas, train and educate experts in the region and raise necessary funds. Assistance to national programs in developing common standards, procedures and techniques of demining through the introduction of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards will be based on the experiences from the region. Also included in SEEMAC’s mission is the development of common resources for training of EOD and demining personnel including management, the testing of demining technologies and the training of MDDs.

SEEMACC Basic Principles

The principles are setting the framework for the values and policies that the mine action activities will abide by in SE Europe. Mine action is presenting all the aspects of national strategy for solving the mine problems in each country. The main goal of mine action is to re-establish the safe environment that will enable the revitalization, reconstruction and development of the communities. The basic humanitarian principles of neutrality and humanity have to be respected in solving the mine problem so that the most mine-affected communities are helped first. The principle of partnership includes the cooperation with the United Nations, especially the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and UNDP, the Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and donors in each phase of mine action activities in order to integrate expertise, experience and recommendations into mine action of the region.

SEEMACC Strategic Goals and Tasks

The strategy involves six strategic goals in 27 tasks reflecting the needs expressed in mine-affected communities. The six goals are listed below (to see the complete list of tasks, check out the SEEMAC website at and click on the introduction heading and go to “strategy,” where the complete SEEMAC strategy is listed).

  1. Retain the donors in SE Europe
  2. Develop prioritization methodology
  3. Develop and adopt regional operative standards
  4. Train personnel in the region
  5. Implement a unified mine information system
  6. Test new demining technologies and machines


There is significant public and political awareness of the mine problem and the
enormous impact that landmines have on safety, as well as on the humanitarian, economic and environmental development of SE Europe. The real victims are civilians—mines impede the return of the population to their homes and prevent the production of necessary resources, even in the pure areas. Populations living in mine-contaminated areas need to see the mine threat reduced. Then perhaps, the establishment and maintenance of peace, the reintegration of refugees and returnees, the revitalization and reconstruction of communities and even the economic development of SE Europe, will soon become a reality.

The regional approach of SEEMACC presents an important development in the cooperation of the region and is also beneficial to solving the mine problem in the region at a faster pace through exchange of experience, expertise, lessons learned and regional pooling of resources. It is also promoting post-conflict political rehabilitation in the region. SEEMACC’s approach can be an example to be followed in other regions of the world.

*All photos are courtesy of the authors


  1. CD ROM LANDMINE MONITOR REPORT 2000 – Toward a Mine-Free World, International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
  2. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Official gazette no. 5/2002.
  3. Agreement on the Establishment of Mine Action Co-ordination Council in Southeastern Europe, signed in Zagreb, November 2000.
  4. National Mine Action Strategy in the Republic of Croatia, CROMAC, Sisak, 2001.
  5. Demining Strategy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, BHMAC, Sarajevo, 2002.
  6. ŽUNEC Ozren, Planet mina, Strata istraživanja, Zagreb, 1997.
  7. Mine Action Programme for the Region of Southeastern Europe for 2003–2010, SEEMACC, Ljubljana, 2003.
  8. ITF Annual Report 2002.

Contact Information

Damir Goršeta
Southeastern Europe Mine Action Coordination Council
1292 Ig, Slovenia

Eva Veble
Head of Department for International Relations
International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance
IG 212
SI-1292, Ig
Tel: 386-1-4796-580
Fax: 386-1-4796-590

Sabina Beber
International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance