Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said on Wednesday that a major demining and forest restoration project has brought Croatia closer to declaring the Osijek-Baranja and Sibenik-Knin counties mine-free by the end of the year.
“About 6.7 square kilometers remain in the Osijek-Baranja County, which we will finish by the end of October. So we will see each other again by the end of the year when we declare the Osijek-Baranja County mine-free,” Bozinovic, who is also deputy prime minister, told reporters in Osijek.
He was speaking at the final conference of the Naturavita demining and forest restoration project in Osijek-Baranja County, one of Croatia’s largest strategic nature protection projects, financed from EU funds at a cost of just over 49 million euros.
The entire area covered by the Naturavita project was cleared of mines and more than 5,600 pieces of explosive devices were found and destroyed.
These included 3,103 anti-armour and 1,762 anti-personnel mines left over from the war in the 1990s in Croatia.
After the end of 2023, four more counties will still need to be fully cleared of mines.
Demining is set to be completed next year in Split-Dalmatia County and Karlovac County. In 2025, the last two counties, Sisak-Moslavina and Lika-Senj, will be cleared of mines. These will be the most demanding because they include forested and mountainous areas.
“Thus we will achieve the national goal and the international obligation under the Ottawa Convention, that by March 1, 2026, we can finally say that Croatia is a mine-free country,” said Bozinovic.
The 1997 Ottawa Convention is an agreement on prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines.
Since 1996, 204 people have been killed by mines in Croatia, including 38 deminers. From 1998 to 2022, one billion euros was spent on demining.
Source : BalkanInsight