Slovenia lends a hand in ridding south east europe of land mines

Photo: CTK

While Poland and the Ukraine are tackling a troubled history, Slovenia is helping some of its neighbours to clear other painful reminders of war. Slovenia's International Trust Fund for De-mining and Mine Victims Assistance was created to help Bosnia and Herzegovina clear land mines left from the wars in the former Yugoslavia. It's since become a leading humanitarian agency in South Eastern Europe. And the United States is pledging further funding for their work.

Photo: CTK
As a small country Slovenia is not able to participate actively in preventing military conflicts in the world and therefore secure peace. But Slovenia is contributing largely in the humanitarian field. The International Trust Fund for de-mining and mine victims assistance, which has been established by the government of the Republic of Slovenia in 1998, is one of the best functioning forms of humanitarian help. Jernej Cimper"ek, director of the International Trust fund explains the aim and tasks of the foundation:

"Today we are operating in all the Balkan countries, which have mine problems, like Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia, and Albania. We succeeded in collecting more than 110 million dollars in this period of time. We are working in two fields: one is in de-mining. The second is in assisting mine victims. Now we are thinking of spreading our operations out of the Balkan area."

The success of the Trust Fund has been praised by many nations and the US administration has decided to donate as much money as all the other donors together.

"Mainly the donors are foreign governments, including the Slovenian government of course, 24 of them from the EU and the United States. And let's say 5% of our funds come from the private sector, namely companies."

There are more than 5.000 m2 of minefields in the Balkans that haven't been cleared of mines yet. In countries such as Albania, Macedonia and Serbia it is expected that the de-mining work be finished in 3 to 4 years in Bosnia and Herzegovina the process will last at least until 2010.

"10% of our funds are for mine-victim assistance. Everything else is for de-mining, and I can say that in all those operations in the Balkans, we are using local and international de-mining companies. We are always working close together with the countries where we are operating, like with Croatia and Bosnia, and of course we respect all of their standards, requests and special priorities that they have. So it is not up to us to choose the priorities, because the countries usually know best what their priorities are."

The International Trust Fund is also preparing de-mining projects in other countries that have suffered war such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.