In 2005 the politicians of Bosnia and Herzegovina agreed on and adopted the Law on Defence.
The years following the adoption of this law in BiH have clearly demonstrated the successful implementation of positive reform for defence.

The Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina is today an excellent example of how a country can move from the end of conflict and strife to a situation where it possesses modern armed forces, under civilian control and oversight, which have the capacity and skill to deploy and positively contribute to international missions overseas.  Such remarkable progress has turned Bosnia and Herzegovina from a security consumer to a security provider.
The progress made in Bosnia and Herzegovina has also allowed EUFOR to evolve its focus from ensuring the implementation of the military parts of GFAP and being a guarantor of a safe and secure environment, to providing Capacity Building and Training (CB&T) for the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (AF BiH).  Our focus has now moved from simply monitoring the situation in the country, and being prepared to intervene, to engaging on the work we can do together.  Last month I visited the unit from Bosnia and Herzegovina on active duty in Afghanistan and witnessed these soldiers, from different ethnic groups, working together in close-knit teams and setting an excellent example of what can be achieved when focus is put on the right issues and towards achieving common goals. The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina have every reason to be proud of the valuable contribution being made by its military personnel towards international peace and security.
There are, however, a number of issues holding back the successful implementation of defence reform which are hindering EUFOR from providing even more assistance to the AF BiH. One of the most pressing issues is the safe management of around 17,000 tons of surplus ammunition, which is of no use to Bosnia and Herzegovina, yet a significant amount of the resources of the AF BiH is tied up guarding and managing these stockpiles.  This is not a productive use of the skills and expertise of AF BiH and has a significant cost in terms of lost opportunities.  In this regard, the international community stands ready to provide all the support necessary to invigorate the rate of disposal of these surplus stockpiles and also to help with the streamlining and rationalisation of the current logistics support required to maintain these sites.  There are three main reasons why Bosnia and Herzegovina should use the support that the International Community is offering in dealing with these surplus stockpiles.
Surplus stockpiles of ammunitions and weapons pose a threat to the Safe and Secure Environment. An unintended explosion could have disastrous effects as has been seen on several occasions in countries within the region. Furthermore, there is always a risk that the ammunition could be stolen or disposed of illegally which could threaten the lives of people in BiH and elsewhere in the world were it to fall into the wrong hands.
There are financial benefits from disposing of the surpluses. Money can be retrieved either from selling usable ammunition through legal channels or by selling the constituent parts of the ammunition once it has been made safe.  By disposing of surplus ammunition, storage sites could also be sold or put to other use, creating a positive financial return and hence lessening the burden to tax payers.  By limiting the number of storage sites in use, security measures could be rationalised and focused on a few remaining sites thus freeing up scarce financial and human resources.
The final reason for increasing the disposal rate of these surpluses is to get the AF BiH into even better shape: officers and soldiers could dedicate more time to training and professional soldiering, instead of guarding redundant ammunition sites.  This would allow them to benefit more from   CB&T offered by EUFOR and other international partners.  The AF BiH would then be in a position to focus all its efforts and resources on the task ahead instead of managing surplus ammunition stockpiles which are now nothing more than a burdensome and costly legacy of the past.
Next week I will be visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina and one of the key reasons for doing so is to engage with national and international partners to form an alliance of stakeholders who are committed to increasing the rate of progress of weapons and ammunition disposal.   Admittedly, there are technical, administrative and financial problems that could hinder the rate of disposal but these are not insurmountable if all key local and international stakeholders work together closely.  Together we can achieve significant progress in the near future. The International Community stands ready to support the efforts of the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina in accelerating the rate of weapons and ammunition disposal, but the authorities will also have to undertake a certain amount of work. Decisions need to be taken. Resources need to be allocated.  An immediate action plan must be agreed.
The opportunity to deal with this difficult issue is now before us and we should seize this chance to fully commit to an ambitious and achievable plan of work to eliminate the burden and risks posed by these surpluses: let us finally consign them to history, where they belong.
It is now time to act proactively, seize the opportunity before us and work unstintingly on this task in order to ensure a safer and productive future for the people of BiH and its professional armed forces.

General Sir Richard Shirreff
Operation Commander Operation Althea EUFOR
Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe

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