International Day for Mine Awareness Marked in Osijek

By 4 April 2018

ZAGREB, April 4, 2018 - Some 405 square kilometres of land in Croatia is still contaminated with unexploded ordnance left over from the 1991-1995 war of independence, and the country is expected to be cleared of mines by 2026, an event in the eastern town of Osijek marking the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action was told on Wednesday.

Croatian Mine Action Centre (HCR) director Zdravko Modrušan said that about 600 square kilometres of mine-infested land had been cleared to date. He recalled that the government had requested an extension of the application of the Ottawa Convention for another seven years, so that Croatia would be free of mines by 2026.

Modrušan said that this deadline could be met provided that mine removal operations were supported by EU funding. He cited the 35 million euro Naturavita project in Osijek-Baranja County, which is financed through the Competitiveness and Cohesion operational programme and is intended for the removal of land mines from the Kopački Rit nature park and the Mura-Drava regional park.

Modrušan said that 595 persons had been injured by unexploded mines since the end of the Homeland War, of whom 203 fatally. He noted that no mine-related incidents had been reported last year and no children had been injured since 2004.

Velimir Žunac, state secretary at the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds, said that the EU was one of the biggest donors for mine removal operations in Croatia, having granted about 46 million euro for that purpose in the last 20 years.

Osijek-Baranja County prefect Ivan Anušić said that all farmland in the county had been cleared of mines last year, while the Kopački Rit nature park and the forest along the River Drava were yet to be demined. He expressed hope that with EU assistance this could be done in the next four years, after which the county would be completely free of mines.