Illegal weapons stockpiles in the Western Balkans pose a great security risk – and not only to the countries in the region itself. Many of the weapons end up in EU member states. The automatic rifles used by the perpetrators in Paris to carry out their heinous attacks were procured via illegal channels from the Balkan region.
A security issue – also for Germany
At their summit in London on Tuesday (10 July), the Heads of Government of eight EU and six Western Balkan countries agreed a roadmap on comprehensive small-arms control by 2024 based on a joint initiative by Germany and France. Its aim is to reduce the flows of illegal weapons and ammunition to the region and to bring the high illegal weapons stockpiles from the time of the civil war under control. It is estimated that there are still up to six million small arms in the region from the time of the war.
A step toward EU accession
The initiative is also an important step for the Western Balkans on their path towards EU accession. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have developed rapidly since the 1990s. However, they are still a long way from meeting EU standards in many areas. Reforms are needed in the fields of security and the rule of law in particular.
Drying up the arms trade step by step
Following the decision at the summit in London, and in accordance with a jointly agreed roadmap, the Western Balkan countries will now adapt their arms legislation to EU standards, improve the search for illegal weapons and counter arms smuggling more effectively. Implementation of the individual reforms will be evaluated at regular intervals.