Based on the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Annex 1-B, the Agreement on Regional Stabilization, Article IV, with a purpose to introduce measures for regional stabilization and arms control essential to creating a stable peace in the region, devising new forms of cooperation in the field of security aimed at building transparency and confidence and achieving balanced and stable defense force levels, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska signed the Agreement on Sub-regional Arms Control on the 14th June 1996.
The Agreement was repeatedly upgraded, so that the current Parties to the Agreement are: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Serbia.
Each Party has accepted the fulfillment of its obligations under the provisions of the Agreement and the aforementioned is of indefinite duration. The obligations and rights arising from the Agreement are legally binding.
The Agreement contains the following measures: Specific numerical limits for the five restricted categories of weapons; provisions on the control mechanism through the inspection regime; exchange of information and intelligence data as well as verification.
The armaments subject to the Agreement and subject to numerical limits are: tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, combat aircrafts and attack helicopters.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as other Parties to the Agreement, in the fifth year of independent implementation of the Agreement, continued their full commitment to the implementation of the Agreement on Subregional Arms Control. Given the high level of cooperation between the Parties to the Agreement, the sustainable implementation of the Agreement entailed the gradual assumption of international responsibilities.
This was a logical step in the post-conflict scenario and in line with the regional trend towards assuming responsibility, as well as other activities of the international community in the subregion.
The process of assuming responsibility was gradually elaborated and finalized in close cooperation with the Parties and in consultation with the Contact Group, and especially supported by the EU, the USA and the Russian Federation.
The ultimate goal was achieved by delegating all responsibilities and functions of the Agreement to the Parties to the extent that assistance from the OSCE was no longer needed. The process was finalized at the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Basel on the 4th December 2014 when the Foreign Ministers of the Parties signed the Amendments XII-XXIV to the Agreement.
It is particularly important to emphasize the fact that the interest of the representatives of the international community in monitoring the implementation of the Agreement through the military-technical and political-diplomatic dimension was continued for years.
The military-technical aspect of the monitoring was reflected through the presence of OSCE observers on the site during the inspection activities, i.e. through the participation of observers from different OSCE countries, as well as representatives of the Conflict Prevention Center (CPC / OSCE).
The presence of the political and diplomatic dimension of the international community in the implementation of the Agreement was realized through the participation of representatives of the Contact Group and representatives of the Center for Conflict Prevention / OSCE at the meetings of the Subregional Consultative Commission (SRCC).
Also, in accordance with established practice, the authorized representative of the Parties, based on a rotating system, regularly submits a joint statement of implementation of the Agreement to the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation or to the OSCE Permanent Council.
The implementation of obligations under the Agreement on Subregional Arms Control is realized through the following activities: Exchange of information and annual reports regarding the organizational structure of the armed forces, military personnel and armaments; Implementation of inspection activities – accepting and conducting inspections; Preparation, organization and participation in the work of the Subregional Consultative Commission (SRCC), the Permanent Working Group of the Subregional Consultative Commission (PWG SRCC).
Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the other Parties to the Agreement, possess weapons limited by the Agreement in quantities that are within the defined limits, or the quantities of certain categories of weapons are significantly less than the defined limits.
It is important to note that over the twenty years of implementation of the Agreement on Subregional Arms Control, there has been no setback or obstruction of any kind in the application of all the provisions of the Agreement.
At certain stages of implementation, despite the complex political circumstances, the Parties demonstrated a high degree of determination and responsibility, and a necessary level of expertise.
Although the circumstances in which the Agreement is implemented changed significantly, i.e. since the signing of the Florence Agreement in June 1996 until today, one of the members of the Agreement became a member of the EU and two became NATO members, the Agreement on Subregional Arms Control remains very important instrument of confidence building, stability and security.
Bosnia and Herzegovina makes a concrete and substantial contribution to the implementation of the Agreement in the process of building trust and enhancing inter-state relations in the region.
Author: Momir Brajić, Head of the Multilateral Relations Department and NATO Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina.