06 Nov 2012
Last year, the Bundeswehr Verification Centre celebrated its twentieth anniversary. What are the main responsibilities and activities of the Centre, as well as its future plans?
It is easy to answer that because the implementation of all the obligations and rights deriving from the treaties and agreements that Germany has signed and ratified is our main task and that will remain so in the future as well. We also have some additional tasks, like providing food for thought papers and ideas to our ministries of defence and foreign affairs, as well as running some courses on arms control for the personnel of the Bundeswehr.
What would you say is the place of arms control within the defence policy in general?
From the German perspective, arms control was and still is a substantial part of the security and defence policy. In the last twenty years, arms control has proven its high value for increased transparency and confidence in Europe and its security. This success story is currently one of the strongest recognitions of arms control in our society. More than one hundred thousand pieces that are treaty limited items under the CFE treaty have been destroyed. The amount of armed forces is significantly reduced and therefore many people have wondered whether we need to continue arms control or we have reached an acceptable level. My answer is no, we haven't, because arms control can help a lot to further develop stability within the guiding principles of transparency, cooperation, confidence building and the right to verification.
What are current endeavours aimed at advancing the topics of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation?
Currently we are working on further development of the Vienna Document. We believe that the Vienna Document, as well as the CFE treaty, needs some amendments because they were done at the time when the military situation was different than today. The scenario of today does not fit into the treaties and the political decision makers have the right to get some outputs from our work and we need to fulfil this request. Some marginal amendments were made to the Vienna Document last year. If you look, for example, at training activities, where do you find today an exercise where more than 9000 soldiers are involved? This is something that will not happen again. However, there are also a lot of military units that are not included in the treaty. Just to give you an example from the Bundeswehr: an armoured personnel training centre has more tanks than an armoured brigade, but the training centre is not covered by the Vienna Document. So, if we want to stay relevant for the politicians, then we need to adjust the Document to the current needs, to the current situation.
Germany is a role model when it comes to the implementation of arms control treaties and a reliable partner to other participating countries. What are the ongoing challenges in the implementation of arms control and confidence building measures?
As I already said, we need to amend the current treaties and this is certainly something that is very high on our agenda. Information exchange needs to be done in a proper way - that is something we are responsible for. One of the major problems we see is that the understanding of arms control is very different among the participating nations and it is sometimes very difficult to find a common understanding.
Disarmament is a priority of the German Foreign Policy. What future perspectives has Germany adopted regarding arms control?
Germany recognised that arms control had as much importance as any investment into the armed forces itself. In direct comparison, arms control is much more effective than any weapon. The knowledge about the amount of military equipment, the organisational structure of the forces and military doctrine provide a deep insight into the capabilities of any military power. Based on these facts, Germany has a strong interest to maintain and even to foster and to promote the existing arms control regimes.
Restrictive armaments export policy is also one of the issues the Bundeswehr Verification Centre is dealing with. What about the regulation of the arms trade? Negotiations on the so-called trade treaty have started. How far has this initiative progressed?I am afraid that I have to say that we went into a dead-end street and when you try to table an idea on arms control you have two options: either to find a common agreement on a very low result or go for the maximum result. We have a difficulty that not all participating nations can agree on that. That was also the situation with the arms trade treaty. I don’t expect a breakthrough in the near future, but like in all other arms control issues, it takes a long time to reach a successful end.
How do you assess the general security situation in South East Europe (SEE) with regard to arms control?
I guess the region has done a remarkable step forward for stability and RACVIAC is one good example of how it did it. It looks promising and I guess if you follow the right pattern, everything will be good in the future as well. I hope so!
How does Germany perceive the development of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces (the CFE Treaty) and Dayton Peace Agreement in the SEE region?
The Dayton Peace Accords are valuable individual agreements and only the Florence Peace Agreement or the Article IV Agreement is comparable with the CFE Treaty. As long as Article IV is being implemented by the countries that are not the CFE member states, it might make sense to implement this document. Still, I am convinced there will be a need for only one document that will cover both, the CFE and the Dayton Peace Accord aspects.
How would you assess the German contribution to the arms control in the region and the cooperation with RACVIAC?
Establishment of RACVIAC was an investment into the region and it was needed. Today, after more than ten years of successful work, Germany is convinced that the countries in the region are able to run this institution on their own. As regards the regional ownership of the Centre, recommendation from Germany is that the states of the South East European region should take more and more responsibility. Nevertheless, Germany will continue to be a reliable partner in the future for the ongoing cooperation.
What are the main goals and methods of further development of arms control? How can this issue be taken forward?
Arms control is mainly a political issue. We need good ideas, we need to put them on the table and find consensus with other nations. This is not an easy issue. It needs a lot of initiatives, energy and time. What we need in the current situation first is the readiness of all nations to sit down at the table and to discuss relevant proposals without reserve.
04 Oct 2012
Mr Grass, could you please explain what is the main function, mission of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre?
The OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre (CPC) was established by the participating States in 1990. The CPC supports the Chairperson-in-Office and other OSCE bodies in the fields of early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. The CPC also plays a key role in supporting OSCE field operations through its regional desks. In addition, the Centre has a Situation Room which monitors developments in the OSCE area affecting security and stability on a 24 hours/7 days a week basis. The CPC’s FSC Support Section, the Section I am working with, provides a wide range of support to the Chairmanship and Troika of the Forum for Security Co-operation (FSC) is one of two regular decision-making bodies of the OSCE, alongside the Permanent Council. The FSC Support Section assists in the implementation of projects and of major OSCE politico-military commitments. In addition, we also enable a direct and secure channel for communication and exchange of information between the capitals of the OSCE participating States through our Communication Network.
The OSCE Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security is, as you stated, a hidden jewel among other OSCE documents. What exactly did you mean by that?
The OSCE Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security was adopted in 1994 as a landmark document in the field of security sector governance. Through the Code of Conduct, the participating States of the OSCE committed themselves to important principles of inter-state relations and intra-state conduct. The Code of Conduct sets out for the first time the requirements for the democratic political control of armed forces: all participating States commit themselves to “at all times provide for and maintain effective guidance to and control of its military, paramilitary and security forces by constitutionally established authorities vested with democratic legitimacy” (article 21). The Code also stipulates that armed forces should be politically neutral, that the rights of armed forces personnel should be protected and that all soldiers should be made aware that they are individually accountable for their actions. The Code of Conduct hence contains very far-reaching provisions which are, as described by Dr. Alexandre Lambert, revolutionary in nature. Twenty years after its adoption, the Code of Conduct is still able to provide relevant guidance on how to organize and govern the security sector. However, it is also true that the Code of Conduct has lost visibility and that it is not known to the wider public. It is therefore a “hidden jewel” in the OSCE toolbox.
Since 1999 the Participating States have annually exchanged information on their implementation of the Code of Conduct, on the basis of the Questionnaire. How would you assess the answers to the Questionnaire on the Code? Have there been any improvements in this regard over the years and how sincere are the countries in their answers? For instance, with regard to reporting on both paramilitary and internal security forces, the rights of armed forces personnel?
The participating States adopted in 1998 for the first time a document which contained several questions on how the Code of Conduct is implemented. This so-called Questionnaire has been updated several times thereafter, the last time in 2009. Currently, the Questionnaire contains 24 questions and sub-questions which cover all aspects of the Code of Conduct. Every year, by 15 April, the participating States exchange their replies to the Questionnaire among each other. In 2012, most OSCE participating States (53 out of 56) have provided replies, which attests to a very high level of compliance. Even though the quality and scope of replies vary greatly from country to country and from question to question, it can be observed that replies provide valuable insights into how the Code of Conduct is implemented in each State. Over the years we can note that the quality of replies is increasing. The Reference Guide of 2010, a voluntary document which assists participating States to structure and fill out their replies, has certainly helped a great deal in this respect. Room for improvement still exists regarding the reporting on intelligence forces or on paramilitary forces, and also on the rights of armed forces personnel. More positively, we can note that about half of participating States report in detail on the competences of their parliament, the role of Ombudspersons or how the deployment for peacekeeping operations is decided.
The SEE region, which experienced various military conflicts in the past, is very actively working on security sector reform, especially on the implementation and standardization of several internationally binding documents, agreements, rules, etc. They are aware that no stability can be sustainable if the democratic control of armed forces is not assured. In your opinion, how far have the SEE countries progressed with the implementation of the OSCE Code of Conduct?
The countries of South East Europe have come a long way in the implementation of the Code of Conduct. Today, all countries of the region comply with the annual information exchange and the quality of replies is in general among the highest of the OSCE area. The countries of the region as well as our OSCE field presences have been strong supporters of the Code and of its implementation. For example, Montenegro just recently held a seminar on the Code of Conduct for the parliamentarians of their Defence and Security Committee, and Bosnia and Herzegovina has included the Code as a constant feature in training activities for its armed forces. Also, RACVIAC’s activities promoting the Code of Conduct, including this seminar, were very important in this respect.
In that regard, could you highlight the most sensitive issues or, more precisely, the main shortcomings of the regional countries in the implementation of the Code?
Not specifically for the region, but in general, we can observe the challenge of certain information lacking in the information exchange. This includes for example detailed information on the democratic control of intelligence services, descriptions of the competencies of parliaments or the control of the police. It might also be beneficial for the countries of the region to engage in peer-to-peer dialogue on the individual submissions included in the annual information exchange.
The first annual discussion on the implementation of the Code of Conduct was held on 12 July 2012, with the aim to assess, review and improve the implementation. What was the general conclusion of the discussion?The first annual implementation discussion on the Code of Conduct provided a good opportunity to discuss how the Code is implemented and to examine its relevance in the context of the existing political and military situation. Several good suggestions were made during the meeting, which will be discussed in the FSC. These pertain in particular to strengthening outreach of the Code of Conduct to key stakeholders, such as parliamentarians, as well as to other regions, such as the Mediterranean and North African region. A great number of delegations also called for a more detailed assessment of the annual information exchange, which is currently limited to a statistical overview.
Mr Grass, the OSCE has cooperated with RACVIAC for years and you have personally taken part in several RACVIAC activities. How would you evaluate RACVIAC's role in strengthening the dialogue on security matters in the SEE? What are the areas we could extend the scope of our activities to?
RACVIAC definitely plays a key role in facilitating the implementation of the Code of Conduct in the region of South East Europe. Your Centre enjoys access and you have established a network of key stakeholder over the years. It is therefore only natural that the OSCE closely co-operates with RACVIAC in promoting and implementing the Code. In future, I would see the merit in including different stakeholders of the Code of Conduct. This could for example mean reaching out to parliamentarians and staffers of parliamentary defence and security committees. I look forward to co-operating with RACVIAC and the countries of your region in this respect.
06 July 2012
Since you took part in the RACVIAC Seminar on the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, let me start by asking you how you would assess the procedures of the Committee on Defence and Security, Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with regard to the current processes of democratic control over the defence sector?
Currently, the Joint Committee on Defence and Security of the BiH Parliament conducts its oversight activities on the basis of a few provisions in the 2005 BiH Law on Defence and the Rules of Procedure of the BiH Parliamentary Assembly. Despite this limited legal framework, the Committee has conducted a number of oversight activities, most notably the ongoing investigation into the destruction of surplus ammunition, weapons and explosives. In its current composition, the Joint Committee has engaged in the challenging task of developing a law on parliamentary oversight in the areas of defence and security. The drafting process is almost complete and the law is expected to enter parliamentary procedure this autumn.
In your opinion as the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, what are the current challenges/priorities for Bosnia and Herzegovina?
First of all, political leaders need to build on the progress we saw during the first few months of this year, to continue, on the basis of compromise, to deliver concrete results, in particular in fulfilling conditions related to the processes of Euro-Atlantic integration. This also means that leaders should refrain from divisive rhetoric, including references to the future dissolution of the state. Underlying all this is the need for the parties to strictly respect the Peace Agreement and to stop challenging the foundations of this country.Another crucial priority is to get the economy going to create jobs and to increase revenue for improvements of social, health and education services. And finally, there is the longer term challenge of fully reintegrating the country socially, economically and politically. The country does not need to be centralised, but it must pull together and work as one in the interests of all.
RACVIAC – Centre for Security Cooperation is a regional organization, a platform for security cooperation in the SEE. Do you think there are some possibilities of steps forward in the regional cooperation and in which segments in particular? (For instance, we have been hearing a lot about the pooling and sharing lately.)
Regional cooperation – whatever segments of society the cooperation encompasses – is welcome and to be encouraged. RACVIAC is a good example of a sensible area in which to cooperate regionally. A country should pursue its security interests in conformity with its neighbours. Security is indivisible – if one country goes its own way, the collective well-being of its neighbours will be placed in question.Secondly, in these testing financial times, finding ways to cooperate – for instance by pooling and sharing assets – gains importance if the public costs could be lowered by such cooperation.
You have recently stated that after several years, Bosnia and Herzegovina finally has reasons for optimism. Could you elaborate on what exactly you meant by this?
At the beginning of this year, a new cross-party dialogue and a readiness to compromise put an end to political stagnation in the country. What is important is that the dialogue continues and that agreements are reached on the many issues that need to be tackled for the lives of citizens to improve and for the country to join the EU and NATO.In addition, we need to see the different layers of government in the country working more effectively together rather than working side by side or pulling in different directions. I am an optimist in this respect. I believe that with the ongoing support of a fully united International Community, Bosnia and Herzegovina will be one of the success stories of the 21st century.
The Office of the Brcko District Supervisor has been recently closed. We have also heard something about closing down the OHR as well. Does this mean that all of the aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina have been accomplished?
The role of the international community, and by extension that of the High Representative, is today certainly no longer the same as ten or even five years ago. Over the last few years, the international community has increasingly been applying the ownership principle: we believe that elected representatives at all levels must take greater responsibility for the future of their country than in the past, while of course fully respecting the Constitution and the Dayton Peace Agreement. Since taking office, I have used my powers very sporadically and carefully, allowing local politicians to take the lead and reach the necessary compromises to move the country forward. At the same time, the EU has reinforced its presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which I warmly welcome.Developments over recent years and months have shown that BiH still faces many challenges and that the progress that has been made since 1996 is not irreversible. For example, repeated statements by politicians challenging the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country only serve to spread fear and uncertainty about the future among ordinary people and to delay the progress that Bosnia and Herzogovina will inevitably have to make towards Euro-Atlantic integration. For this reason, the High Representative still has a vital role to play to safeguard the Peace Agreement and in so doing allowing the EU Delegation to focus its energies on advancing the EU agenda. In this respect, the roles of the High Representative and the EUSR are complementary.
02 July 2012
Ms Pendes, in view of RACVIAC's activity that you have taken part in, we will start with the questions about gender equality. You have been a Deputy Minister in a traditionally male-dominated Ministry for almost eight years now. How do you personally get along and in what way and to what extent do you find gender equality integrated in the Ministry of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina?
I am glad that we are starting off this interview with the question about gender equality, particularly in light of the event that prompted it. My educational background (Military Technical University) also belongs to a traditionally male occupation. In this regard, I have to say that I had a preference for these occupations early on throughout my education, as well as later on while serving in a variety of responsible posts. A woman who, in this particular instance, holds the post of Deputy Minister, in a way challenges the conventional wisdom regarding the so called male institution, though not as strongly as several year ago when I had taken up this post. If you take a closer look at the countries in Europe or the region today, you will see this is not so unusual these days. I believe that women are able to get to grips with the problems and challenges of today and that the division into male and female occupations has lost its significance. As a result, there is an increasing number of women who have the opportunity to assume responsible positions, as well as those who readily take up these positions and do a high quality job.
We are witnessing the fact that women are increasingly employed in the Armed Forces and Police. Do you consider this a trend towards a drastic change of a women's place and role in society, notably in security institutions, or primarily yet another consequence of the financial crisis we have been facing over the last few years?
It is rather difficult to answer this question precisely. I do hope women choose these occupations because they actually want and like these types of jobs, and that is what is most important. However, the importance of permanent employment cannot be simply dismissed at the time of the financial crisis. It is a fact that after the defence reform process and introduction of professional military service, the percentage of women in the Armed Forces has significantly increased. There is an increasing number of women, even the highly educated ones, who are enlisting in the army, which is especially evident during vacancy announcements. Therefore, this is neither a taboo nor exclusively a male occupation. I think women can find their place in the Armed Forces and even build a successful career. I am especially pleased to see that in addition to an increasing interest among women in each recruitment round women are ranked among top three for qualifications and physical performance alike.
In 2010 RACVIAC was involved in Perspektiva project, which resulted in a document “Guide through Personal Transition”, aimed at facilitating transition of military personnel in Bosnia and Herzegovina. To what extent does this Guide really facilitate the transition for you and how far have your reached or at what stage is the project now?
I am familiar with the fact that RACVIAC conducted some activities on the resettlement of military personnel within the framework of conferences and seminars of the Working Group (WG1) at which the participants shared their experiences and the lessons learned. We are particularly grateful to you for the help you provided through an active participation in developing a brochure “Guide through Personal Transition”. However, over the previous years, the MoD of Bosnia and Herzegovina took various important steps at the national and international level to prepare for the process of transition. As early as 2008, the Action Plan and Transition Policy were adopted, followed by the adoption of the Transition Programme “Perspektiva” a year later. In the same year, the Rulebook on Transition and Resettlement was developed, personnel analysis completed, and three resettlement centres established. For the realization of the NATO – “Perspektiva” Programme, the MoD earmarked one million of Convertible Marks in the budgets for 2010, 2011, and 2012, respectively. Since early 2010, the MoD discharged some 2000 professional soldiers who are assisted in their re-integration into civilian life through the implementation of the NATO – “Perspektiva” Programme as the authentic programme. The process is in its final implementation phase and should be completed by the end of this year.
Parliamentary oversight of security sector is also one of the areas of intensive cooperation between Bosnia and Herzegovina and RACVIAC and we have been organizing several activities on that topic for several consecutive years. What are currently the main challenges in the defence system reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina with regard to the NATO accession process?
It is true that for several years now the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina has hosted the conferences on parliamentary oversight of security sector organized together with RACVIAC. This is our way of showing that we devote great attention to this important issue – the issue of effective parliamentary oversight over security and defence sector, as well as to the regional cooperation in the area. These conferences are good occasions for the parliamentary commissions and competent officials working in security and defence institutions to share the best practices and search for a long-term progress in this domain. As regards the challenges, I would say that the creation of political will is a constant challenge that we put a lot of effort into, but it is equally challenging to ensure the necessary resources, both material and human. We have been responding to these challenges, sometimes more and sometimes less successfully. However, for me there is no alternative to NATO and EU integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and finally I see Bosnia and Herzegovina fully integrated into these structures. Since the MAP, as a key programme on the path to NATO alliance, has not been put into effect for Bosnia and Herzegovina yet, the issues, or one issue in particular – the one concerning prospective immovable defence property – are currently being resolved in order to remove obstacles to participation in the MAP. In view of the draft Agreement confirmed by the Council of Ministers and the decision that is pending adoption by the Parliament, I believe all the obstacles will be removed and the efforts and activities aimed at NATO membership intensified. The budget has been adopted and although it does not allow for the MoD’s plan and programme to be fully implemented, it does represent a significant step forward, considering that in 2011 we were operating based on the Decision on Provisional Financing.
Ministry of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina has had excellent cooperation with RACVIAC – Centre for Security Cooperation. In what areas do you think this cooperation could be enhanced or intensified; How can RACVIAC assist Bosnia and Herzegovina in a faster and easier EU and NATO integration?
You are right in saying that the Ministry of Bosnia and Herzegovina supports RACVIAC and that we have excellent cooperation. As you know, three of our officers have been members of RACVIAC staff for some time now. In addition to that, Bosnia and Herzegovina makes a financial contribution to covering RACVIAC operational costs. We consider the project and cooperation with this regional Centre for Security Cooperation to be part of a long-term, mutually beneficial process.
RACVIAC is an indispensable platform of efficient regional cooperation which is not only an essential precondition for the EU and NATO integration process, but also the best preparation for all the participants to simply transfer cooperation instruments from the regional to a wider European and Euro-Atlantic context in the future.
03 May 2012
Ms Cebasek-Travnik, could you please provide us with some information about the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Republic of Slovenia: what are the Ombudsman's tasks, relation with the Parliament in terms of mandate, responsibilities and financing?
The institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Republic of Slovenia was established by law according to the provision of the Constitution. The institution has been active since 1995, and I am the third Ombudsman and the first woman to hold the post. The Ombudsman's term of office lasts for 6 years. It is interesting to note that the Ombudsman is elected at the proposal of the President and it is the only position that requires a two-third majority of votes in the Parliament. The scope of the Ombudsman's activities is defined by law. The Ombudsman deals with the cases in which the rights of an individual or a group of people have been violated by the civil service and/or public service bodies or employees or the local authorities. The Ombudsman does not act upon the cases for which there are ongoing court proceedings. We may only keep track of the progress of the proceedings, but, naturally, we can by no means influence the outcome and the court ruling. All other governmental, public and local authority bodies are open to our “investigation”. We also protect the citizens' rights in the proceedings before the Armed Forces and Security Agencies. It should be noted that this is not the practice employed by Ombudsmen in all countries. Personally, I have a good cooperation with the military, at all levels. We are usually provided with everything we ask for and there are generally no problems in this regard. We do experience minor problems when we give some guidelines or recommendations that are a bit hard to accept or require lengthier implementation period. Still, the outcome is always positive in the end and some steps forward are made.
Human rights and liberties are terms with a wide range of meaning. Content-wise, what should an Ombudsman do?
Content-wise, it is not stipulated what an Ombudsman should do. Personally, I have set the following priorities for my term of office: children, the elderly and people with special needs. As I am a psychiatrist by profession and have developed a feeling for human adversities, I have to say that I have started dealing with the issue of poverty in a systematic manner as early as 2007. I have to admit that this raised many eyebrows, because Slovenia was not hit by the financial crisis at the time. However, it was evident as early as then that poverty prevented some persons from exercising their fundamental human rights. The second area of my interest is violence on all levels, from traffic violence and domestic violence to peer violence, bullying, mobbing, etc. I am interested in the phenomenon of violence in general and how legislation can help curb it. My third priority is environmental protection, i.e. the issues of pollution and remediation of polluted areas.
What are the most common reasons people contact you and which are some of the most common groups that approach you, seeking help and protection from the Ombudsman?
I would say it depends on the situation and issues involved. There are always some groups of citizens who are more vulnerable in a given period. It all depends on a number of factors and it is never possible to make exact predictions. A few years ago we were dealing with the cases on account of thousands of people having been “erased” from the Slovenian Book of Citizens in 1992. We are still often approached by people due to excessively lengthy court proceedings. Last year cases of social injustice became more frequent.
Could you give us some specific examples of cases where the intervention of the Ombudsman was required with regard to human rights violations in the Armed Forces?
Virtually all cases were connected to Labour Law. One of the cases, also published in the English version of our 2010 Annual Report, was dealing with the procedure of recognizing the right to absence from work on grounds of occupational injury. An initiator informed us about the problem when his employer, the Ministry of Defence, did not recognize his right to absence from work on grounds of occupational injury. Since his rights were not recognized due to inadequate action on the part of his superiors, the case was pointed out to the Ministry of Defence and the opinion of the Ombudsman was communicated. The Ministry undertook to improve the procedures of reporting occupational injuries. All the problems the initiator had encountered were remedied after our intervention and the initiator was able to exercise his rights.
What is being done by the Institution of the Ombudsman in order to eliminate the barriers that, for instance, prevent women from taking a more active part in politics and the political spheres of society? What can an Ombudsman in the Republic of Slovenia do to improve gender equality?
Until recently there was a Government Office for Equal Opportunities in the Republic of Slovenia (note: the Office for Equal Opportunities was abolished in March 2012), so the Human Rights Ombudsman did not have any special objectives in this regard. We have come across some individual cases in the course of our practice, although not very frequently. The reason for this is that these cases were probably referred to the Government Office for Equal Opportunities. I am afraid that there is unfortunately not much that an Ombudsman can do with reference to such cases in a systematic manner. The laws are there and they are quite well written, though not always implemented.
You mentioned the difference between the private and public sector. Do you perhaps have a general overview as to in which sector the situation is worse? Is it the private sector?
The problem is that an Ombudsman has no authority over physical and legal entities which are “not the state”. As regards the discrimination in state institutions, I can give recommendations and ask the institution to take measures against the indentified discrimination. I would say the situation is definitely worse in the private sector. There is far greater number of cases in which gender equality standards are breached in the private sector. In this sector an employer has great authority and may, for instance, fire women who have children or pregnant women, claiming they have been made redundant. In the public sector things do not exactly work that way. Unfortunately, the Ombudsman has no access to the private sector.
Considering that 2012 has been declared the Year of the Family, let me ask you what your experiences are when it comes to the protection of the rights of children, women and families?
Children represent some of the most numerous and vulnerable groups in almost every society. Slovenia is currently going through a transition period: the new Family Law was rejected in a referendum on 25 March 2012. As an Ombudsman, I endorsed this Act, not because 2012 has been declared the Year of the Family, but because the Draft Act incorporated a lot of what we he have been proposing for years. Since the Act was not passed, this will unfortunately have a detrimental impact on the most vulnerable group - children, while it is primarily this group the Act aimed to protect. We are forced to tackle some problems all over again and what is worse, children will not get from the Act what we had expected them to get, because the law will not be discussed again in the Parliament during the next 12 months. It is only the next generation, who will benefit from it, provided the problems are resolved.
• 1988 - 1998 Trained in psychiatry in Slovenia, at University psychiatric hospital, University of Heidelberg (1988, 1989), Johns Hopkins University, School of Public Health, H.H. Humphrey Fellowship – Program on Substance Abuse (1993-1994), Institute for family therapy, London (1991-1993, 1995-1998)
• 1995 - 2000 Head of the Alcoholism Treatment Center Ljubljana, University Psychiatric Hospital Ljubljana
• 1995 till February 2007 Assistant, Chair of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Ljubljana
• 2000 - 2004 Deputy Director of Mental Health Center, University Psychiatric Hospital Ljubljana
• 2004 till February 2007 Assistant Director for Education, University Psychiatric Hospital from 2004 till February 2007;
• 2007 The Human Rights Omudsman of the Republic of Slovenia
15 Mar 2012
There are no significant changes in the VD 2011, not necessarily in the text itself. I think the main development, the main progress concerns the fact that the decision was reached on how to proceed in the future: so all the proposals that have been made within the five-year time frame will be reviewed and the document will be reissued. This might include some significant changes in the future as well. For the time being, the changes are of a minor nature, not so significant in terms of implementation.
RACVIAC has been dealing with the Arms Control issues from the very beginning. There are some opinions or statements that the Arms Control as a topic is “used up”, exhausted so to speak. What is your opinion on the future of Conventional Arms Control?
In fact, what we sometimes observe, individually in one nation or the other, as well as on a wider scale, is the approach that our Swiss colleague, Mr Fabian Grass, from the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre describes as “killing me softly”, by neglecting things or just doing nothing or leaving things as they are. However, if one imagines that there are at least three dormant conflicts within the OSCE participating nations, I do believe that the future of arms control in conjunction with confidence building is still very important. We should really do our best to retain it, but in order to continue, we have to adapt to the changing context.
Germany is very active in the field of Arms Control. RACVIAC itself was established as the arms control training centre in 2000, based on the bilateral agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Croatia. How would you assess the German contribution to the Confidence and Security Building Measures (CSBM) in the South-East European (SEE) region and beyond?
Well, first of all we are on the supporting side of your Centre. Therefore, I think it is quite a significant contribution, not only in terms of personnel but also in terms of financial resources and knowledge that is made available for the benefit of further development of RACVIAC. I remain optimistic that in the future this contribution will continue, although all the nations are affected by the financial crisis, having limited resources at their disposal. I think that we view RACVIAC quite in the same way as we view our own verification centre; For example, our commander is aiming for the Bundeswehr Verification Centre to become a centre of competence in Middle Europe, which means that we could quite easily invite other nations to share their views and to participate in common implementation, maybe to do the daily business all together from one location, such as Geilenkirchen. This could become the future for RACVIAC as well, to be the centre for the South-East European region if the participating states show the will for that kind of common initiative. A very important issue for the Federal Republic of Germany is that we would, of course, like to contribute to the success of RACVIAC, but most of the work, the hard work of financing and staff work, has to come from the nations in the region. And to support these regions, these nations in doing this, in starting to contribute on their part is even more important than simply giving contributions or just planning the activities by yourselves.
We are always proud to emphasize that RACVIAC was and still is a very unique organization in the region, the only one dealing with the arms control issues. What is the German perception of RACVIAC’s role in the security processes in SEE? Could we do more, or what else could we do?
Well, it’s hard to make any proposals if you don’t have a good insight into what has been done so far. For me, being here for the first time, discussing in more detail what has already been done or what could be done in the future, I learned that there are lots of plans that have been developed already, lots of detailed proposals for the work you intend to do in the future. I think RACVIAC is already on a good way to follow that path which I already laid out. Nevertheless, I have come to realise that more support from the participating countries from SEE would be beneficial for RACVIAC‘s activities. I think we should do our best to remind these nations that it is their core task to get involved.
You are a verification expert with great experience. Can you please give us your expert evaluation of this particular Course?
It has been very successful. First of all, it has enabled prospective experts or those who want to become experts, newcomers, to at least work together, to share their approach with other nations. More than 50% of the participants / experts are from outside the SEE region. We have enjoyed the hospitality and openness as well as transparency of the Croatian Armed Forces, which we could benefit a lot from. It would have not been possible to conduct this course if the Croatian Armed Forces had not agreed to support us. To conduct such a course, you also need the theoretical knowledge. Escort teams as well as the evaluation teams have to be prepared before the inspection and evaluation takes place. This means that you have to prepare the units, briefings, come to common understanding, be aware what the consequences for the evaluation team might result in. For the evaluation team, it is important to be fair towards the unit they are going to evaluate, to be prepared, to have the knowledge about the information exchange, to respond to the commander’s briefing, to the things they see, to ask questions and to engage in an open discussion. You always do need a practical part in the course in order to exercise and, after having done this in practice at least once, to be able to say: Now I know what they are talking about and what I am expected to do.
From 2003 to 2008 he served as the German Defence Attaché in the Republic of Austria and in the Islamic Republic of Iran, before he was assigned to the Bundeswehr Verification Centre in Geilenkirchen as the Section Chief responsible for the implementation of the Vienna Document.
16 Nov 2011
First of all I would like to commend Croatia’s efforts to integrate fully and practically into NATO after having joined the Alliance at the NATO Strasbourg - Kehl Summit. It was a very important step. Furthermore, initiatives like RACVIAC are very important to promote dialogue on security issues at regional level. That’s really good. So, congratulations to the RACVIAC Centre and to the Balkan Countries who have participated in this event and who are supporting these initiatives. I hope RACVIAC’s work will continue well into the future. Regarding the new Strategic Concept, NATO is in the process of implementing decisions taken in Lisbon in response to new security challenges. We are working on a number of different issues, trying to take advantage of new ideas for partnerships which enable us to better share information and operational culture. NATO is also trying to involve other partners in the common fight against terrorism, which is perceived as one of the major threats we are currently faced with. Cyber defence is another important domain. In June, Ministers of Defence signed an important document entitled “The NATO Concept on Cyber Defence”, complemented by an Action Plan. So, now cyber defence has moved on from being just an idea. We are now putting in place the adopted measures, which should better enable us to fight this fast-growing and worrying threat to security. Concerning the weapons of mass destruction, yet another serious concern for international security, I can say that NATO’s ballistic missile defence is very well prepared. In this regard, NATO is looking for the participation not only of NATO countries but other countries as well, Russia in particular. Our relationship with Russia, a strategic player, is very important. We are now trying to reach some practical decisions on this issue, which is perceived as one of the most important priorities for the Alliance. Other challenges fall under domains usually referred to as the common space system, common goods, and maritime space. For example, NATO is cooperating with the EU and other countries in order to counter an increasing piracy threat to our merchant shipping. Furthermore, NATO is actively contributing to international community efforts to guarantee the freedom of maritime space, especially for commercial reasons. As you can see, these are some of the different domains and aspects of NATO’s practical involvement within the framework of its new Strategic Concept.
What are the current challenges in the operation and transformation of the Alliance?
The global financial crisis makes it more difficult for NATO to counter the above-mentioned threats. As you know, we are fully involved in Afghanistan, we are still in Kosovo, we have just concluded the Operation in Libya and in a period of financial constraints it is very difficult for NATO and its member States to guarantee the same capabilities. This is the reason why the Secretary General is looking to implement the idea launched under the name “Smart Defence”, which is a way of optimizing spending. The “Smart Defence” concept is primarily about “burden sharing” of capacities, and trying to convince nations to participate in more multinational projects. In order to save money, each nation can decide where and in which projects they want to put their efforts. So, multinational projects could be a very good solution to minimise the costs while at the same time they serve as a guarantee of keeping NATO capabilities at the same ambitious levels. All these aspects of NATO’s current activities are connected: the ongoing missions, the transformation of the Alliance into a more streamlined but effective and deployable organization from the military point of view and, of course, the “Smart Defence” concept. These initiatives, are designed to ensure NATO remains a modern organization capable of facing new security challenges. Concerning NATO transformation, this is being carried out on different levels. As part of this process, the NATO Command Structure is also undergoing transformation. The number of HQ personnel is being downsized from around 13.000 to 8.900 in order to streamline the organization. NATO member nations, however, must fulfil their commitment to provide the Alliance with the right capacities, right capabilities and the right personnel.
How does the future enlargement fit into this transformation process?
You know that the open door policy is reality. All the nations that aspire to be part of the Alliance as member states can apply for membership provided they meet certain criteria. Enlargement means that more nations participate in the same efforts of the NATO family in order to tackle global security challenges.
How do you consider the role of SEE countries in NATO-led operations, such as ISAF, Iraq and KFOR. Some of them, like Albania and Croatia are NATO members, but other are still candidates. Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has already completed the requirements for membership; Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro have been potential members since 2008. What are the benefits of their participation in such operations and how is this reflected in their NATO integration processes?
Many nations from the SEE region are contributing to NATO efforts in Afghanistan, and not only there. NATO appreciates their participation in the operations as being highly valuable. In Afghanistan we now have a total of 49 nations: 28 NATO members and 21 partners – non-NATO contributing nations - , as we call them. Some of them are SEE countries and their contribution is held in high esteem. However, there is no direct link between participating in NATO-led missions and becoming a NATO member. There are non-NATO contributing nations in Afghanistan who do not aspire to becoming members. But one of the prerequisites to become a Member is having security, armed forces that are modern. So, participation in NATO operations can help in modernising armed forces, making them more deployable and able to inter-operate with multinational forces, thereby fulfilling the membership criteria. The ability of nations to work together is extremely important. Interoperability is an important NATO criteria. When soldiers work together in an operation, in the field, in Afghanistan for example, the integration moment is crucial. I would say, knowing each other, building trust, understanding each other and operating together is always essential for the success of a mission.
How would you assess the role of RACVIAC in addressing different security challenges in the SEE region?
When I received the invitation to attend this Conference, to be frank, I was not well aware of the role played by the Centre. But, I was aware of the efforts Croatia had been making in exercising its new membership. Initiatives aimed at facilitating dialogue and fostering a culture of security and cooperation which are carried out by your Centre are every important for preventing security threats from turning into reality. So, I think these Initiatives should be further expanded. Bringing together representatives of different countries of the Region is a great success, considering that not long time ago it was almost unthinkable. This initiative definitely deserves to be commended.
Is there any capacity for further closer cooperation between our two organizations?
NATO Public Diplomacy is fully involved in increasing and promoting these kind of initiatives, studies, think tanks, universities etc. I hope that RACVIAC will continue to strengthen its cooperation with NATO. It is worth mentioning here that the Chief of NATO Public Diplomacy is a Croatian Ambassador who has a very active role in promoting NATO.
Brigadier General Panizzi holds several university and master degrees, such as Strategic Sciences, International and Diplomatic Relations, European Studies, Military International Studies and Peace Keeping and Security Studies.
26 Oct 2011
First of all, our mission is to assist the four signatory states of the Dayton Peace Accords, namely Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, in the implementation of the agreed arms control measures, by providing support, advice and suggestions. We are also ensuring the proper verification of the data they exchange on annual basis and supervising the collection and dissemination of all official notifications. Generally speaking, my role is to ensure that the process of stabilization flows smoothly and that there are no obstacles in the path of Article IV implementation.
After 15 years of execution and implementation of Article IV, Annex 1-B of the Dayton Peace Accords, how do you see its results reflected in the region and beyond?
We can proudly say that the mission of the Personal Representative is almost accomplished. Having reduced the armaments below the ceilings specified in the Agreement, the four countries confirmed their readiness to assume larger responsibility to implement Article IV of the Agreement on their own in the future. After 15 years of successful implementation, the parties have achieved such a level of mutual cooperation that the assistance of the international community will no longer be needed. This means that the countries are almost ready to take the regional ownership process that we started just two years ago in their own hands and proceed with the process without any kind of international support. This also shows the countries’ strong willingness to affiliate themselves with other Euro-Atlantic integration processes.
After a very successful period of the implementation of Arms Control Treaties in whole Europe, Arms Control has fallen ‘out of favour’ of many policy makers. Considering the latest developments in the CFE-Treaty, can we also expect some major changes related to the Article IV-Agreement in the future?
Many definitions, provisions, procedures and categories for armaments reductions and limitations within Article IV were taken from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. However, the developments in the CFE-Treaty do not affect Article IV to a large extent. Since the signatory states are continuing to execute all the activities in the spirit of trust, transparency and cooperation, there is no need to introduce any other procedures of implementation. However, the regional ownership process is not finished yet so we will continue with the verification activities and the trainings required. The regional ownership process is expected to be concluded by the end of 2014.
Pursuant to Dayton Art IV, four acting parties - Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia – are obliged to mutually conduct the verification regime. Given the latest round of NATO enlargement and the reasonable prospect of more countries from the region joining NATO in the near future, what is the future of the inspection regime when we know that NATO member states are not obliged to carry out such inspections?
Yes, NATO countries do not conduct inspections among each other. However, all Article IV signatory states have reaffirmed their readiness to continue with the implementation of the Agreement and to further strengthen their full autonomy over its implementation. Croatia, as a NATO member, is the best example: it continued to fulfil its obligations in accordance with the provisions of the Agreement even after accession to NATO. We perceive this as a clear sign of the country's willingness to foster the spirit of cooperation. The credit for the successful implementation of Article IV, which helps the countries to advance towards fully-fledged Euro-Atlantic integration, goes not only to the OSCE, but primarily to the four countries themselves.
RACVIAC has been dealing with the Dayton Peace Agreement from the very beginning. So far we have conducted 17 activities dedicated to this subject matter, whereby we have tried to provide a good platform for confidence building in the SEE region. Do you consider RACVIAC sufficiently embedded in the security cooperation in the region, especially in terms of Dayton Article IV?
RACVIAC is a focal point for dialogue and cooperation on security matters in the region. In the eleven years of its existence the Centre has accumulated knowledge and experience on different aspects of security issues and confidence building measures, and especially on verification activities and arms control regimes. It is very important to find the most efficient way of cooperation between our two organizations. The OSCE should indentify new means and ways to gradually transfer full autonomy to the Parties in the following years. Whatever decision is to be made, I am sure it will be for the benefit of the Parties and the overall regional stability.
Major General Torres holds an Academic degree in Political Science (University of Trieste) and Master’s degrees in Strategic Science (University of Torino) and Institutional Communication (University of Rome).
12 Oct 2011
Over the past few years Bosnia and Herzegovina has had a significantly more active role in the field of international defence cooperation, both within the region and wider. We are familiar with the fact that the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina have been participating actively in UN missions for a number of years, that two units have taken part in the operation Iraqi Freedom and that your country's forces are currently taking part in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Furthermore, Euro-Atlantic integration has been identified as one of the priorities of the foreign policy of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this regard, would you be so kind to explain the current status of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the process of accession to NATO and what requirements are still to be fulfilled in this field?
It is correct that Bosnia and Herzegovina is actively contributing to international efforts to restore and keep peace in the world. Evidently, our contribution is in line with the available capacities and the objective status of Bosnia and Herzegovina in international relations. However, through its participation in international peace-support operations, Bosnia and Herzegovina is demonstrating an ability to be a constructive and reliable member of the international community, thus signaling a clear message that its role has changed from being a beneficiary of international peace-support efforts into being an active contributor to the same processes. Participation in NATO-led operations effectively confirms the credibility of aspirations of a candidate country to become a fully-fledged member of the Alliance. In this regard, both the NATO head office and its member states welcome and acknowledge the role of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the ISAF operation. As far as NATO membership is concerned, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made considerable progress through the utilization of so-called 'tools of partnership', namely IPP, PARP, IPAP, ID as well as MAP, a programme to which Bosnia and Herzegovina has been admitted on a single condition. The formal obstacle keeping us from becoming a full beneficiary of the MAP programme and from developing the Annual National Programme of cooperation with NATO (ANP) is the registration of prospective military locations as the state property to be placed at the disposal of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Intensive efforts are being made to reach political agreement in Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding different modalities of finding a solution to this issue and fulfilling the mentioned MAP condition. In this regard, I am optimistic and I do believe that the imminent progress in the fulfillment of that condition and the start of a new phase in the institutional relationship between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Alliance through the MAP programme will give fresh impetus and necessary dynamics to the process of accession to NATO itself.
Mr Sajinovic, a year of the Multinational Advisory Group (MAG) Chairmanship is now behind you. Prior to that, you had been Bosnia and Herzegovina's MAG POC. Therefore, it is needless to say that you are a good connoisseur of RACVIAC. Would you mind drawing a comparison between the original RACVIAC and the present-day RACVIAC – Centre for Security Cooperation?
In the eleven years of its existence, RACVIAC has evidently gone through considerable transformation process, possibly as comprehensive as to make it hard to draw comparisons between RACVIAC in 2000, a pioneer Regional centre which primarily dealt with promoting cooperation through verification and arms control activities, and the present-day RACVIAC - Centre for security cooperation which has gained recognition as an indispensable factor competently contributing to finding solutions to a broad spectrum of issues falling under the contemporary security threats, challenges and risks domain. Indeed, RACVIAC has evolved, just like our region as a whole has undergone a transition from the stabilization and confidence and security-building phase into the phase of integration into Euro-Atlantic security structures. RACVIAC flexibility in terms of its mission, structure and the work organization, led by a vision of RACVIAC management and supported by Members and Associate members, has proved to be essential for the past work of RACVIAC and the respectable reputation RACVIAC enjoys today. As I have personally taken part in the process of establishment and transformation of RACVIAC, I perceive the success of RACVIAC with a bit of personal emotion and, if you will pardon my lack of modesty, with a feeling of satisfaction. Furthermore, notwithstanding this professional side, I am personally involved with RACVIAC through a number of friendships, and I may say that this regional networking has enriched me, just as it has enriched many other RACVIAC staff members, MAG members and participants in our workshops, seminars and conferences. As regards the MAG Chairmanship, I have taken it both as a responsible and personally honoring duty. I am proud of the fact that the common efforts of RACVIAC Members, Associate and Observer countries and the Centre's management have brought visible progress in the last year in terms of adopting a number of conceptual, strategic and planning documents, forging new partnerships and finding at least an initial way out of the insufficient and uncertain financing of the Centre's basic functions. The forthcoming period will require further commitment to this process as well as additional efforts in order to ensure political support and stable staffing with qualified and motivated personnel seconded from member states.
How would you evaluate the role of RACVIAC in the field of regional cooperation and assistance to SEE countries in their Euro-Atlantic integration processes?
RACVIAC is an important and an irreplaceable subject in the field of regional cooperation. Not only do its mission, programme of activities and even its internal organization represent a good model but also a verified instrument and a platform for practical forms of cooperation, the results of which are shared not only among its member states and in the region, but even beyond. Regional cooperation is one of important prerequisites and a test for verifying the capacity of member states to efficiently integrate into broader security, economic and political structures. The current structure of permanent members of RACVIAC is diverse and homogenous at the same time. Evidently, the countries have different formal statuses or different statuses in the fulfillment of their aspirations towards integration into Euro-Atlantic structures, as well as a different level of commitment to common goals demonstrated through a common project – RACVIAC. This only confirms the strength and the potential of the Region which, despite being potentially the most unstable part of Europe, represents at the same time an area of immense progress and fruitful cooperation. Needless to say that RACVIAC deserves part of the credit for the jointly achieved results.
Since the political and security situation in South East Europe (SEE) is subject to constant change, and by this I mean in the positive direction, where and how do you see the future role of RACVIAC in terms of regional security cooperation?
I have already emphasized the ability of RACVIAC to transform itself together with the region it belongs to and to which it offers its own professional expertise, experience and a climate propitious for cooperation. I am confident that the transformation of RACVIAC will continue in the same direction and that in each phase of further progress of the region towards enhanced stability and integration into Euro-Atlantic structures we will be able to count on RACVIAC, whose mission, structure and programme of activities are adapted to the challenges of the moment. Experience and lessons learned from RACVIAC might represent an interesting model for stimulating and enhancing regional cooperation in some other parts of the world.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has been supporting RACVIAC and its activities actively from the very beginning. Besides financial contributions and the active participation in the Centre's activities through provision of participants and lecturers, the secondment of officers to RACVIAC staff constitutes an important part of your country's support. Currently, RACVIAC staff members include three staff officers from Bosnia and Herzegovina 's Armed Forces. Do you see those secondments as a good investment, and can RACVIAC count on a similar support in the future as well?
The scope and the content of Bosnia and Herzegovina's support to RACVIAC reflect clear political commitment and orientation determined by strategic governmental documents such as Security policy, Foreign Policy Guidelines etc. Therefore, I perceive the support to RACVIAC not only as an act of responsibility relating to issues of common interest for the Region, but also as an efficient mechanism for the fulfillment of foreign-policy goals in the field of good neighborly relations and regional cooperation, and for promoting values and aspirations for EU and NATO membership. The financing of RACVIAC and the contribution to the structure of its permanent staff have been given high priority in my country so far. Current economic challenges and growing international engagement of military and civil personnel of Bosnia and Herzegovina in diplomatic and military missions impose a demanding task and a number of complex issues in terms of sufficiency of available resources. However, I am of the opinion that the relevant institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina will persist in ensuring the existing level of support for RACVIAC both in 2011 and 2012.
Mr Šajinović holds a university degree in Mechanical Engineering, University of Sarajevo.
24 May 2011
Your Excellency, it is my great honour to welcome you here at RACVIAC - Centre for Security Cooperation. However, this is not the first time you are taking part in activities organized by RACVIAC. Could you please explain your engagement in this activity?
I’ve been invited here to speak at the opening of the workshop on Cluster Munitions, which is jointly organised by RACVIAC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Croatia. I will speak about Australia’s commitment to the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions and also about the work Australia has been doing both internationally and in the Asia-Pacific region to support the Convention with practical assistance to help clear cluster munitions and to provide assistance to victims. I have previously spoken at similar workshops organised by RACVIAC on the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Ottawa Convention (on Landmines).
Australia is strongly committed to supporting a range of multilateral objectives including global security, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. You are also personally very much involved in different kinds of activities related to global security and implementation of conventions regarding humanitarian activities and protection of civilians. When and how did you get involved in the above-mentioned issues?
That’s right. Australia is a founding member of the United Nations, an active participant in UN institutions and the 12th largest contributor to the UN regular and peacekeeping budgets. We have a track record of achievement in international peace and security, including playing a leading role in bringing about the Cambodian peace settlement; playing a leading role in the negotiation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention; initiating the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and more recently with Japan, the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. Australia has also contributed over 65,000 personnel to more than 50 UN and multilateral peace and security operations worldwide. My own involvement in these issues began when I was posted to our mission in Cambodia during the peace settlement period in the early 1990s. In the late 1990s I served as Director of the UN Section of our Foreign Ministry. I also participated in a year-long strategic studies course at the Australian Defence College in 2001, before becoming Director of the Anti-Terrorism Taskforce in the Foreign Ministry after September 11. In Croatia our Embassy has had a long involvement in supporting projects associated with demining or with a peace/security focus: since the financial year 2003-4 we have supported 9 projects in Croatia through our Direct Aid Program (which supports small scale projects) with funding of almost $A35,000. I have personally visited many of these projects and met with the NGOs and individuals working in these fields.
Could you please explain what the Australia Group is and what its purpose and objectives are?
The Australia Group was formed in 1985 with the aim of harmonising export controls on chemical weapons precursor chemicals. The Australia Group charter was subsequently extended to include controls on chemical production equipment and technologies which might be misused for chemical weapons purposes. The scope of Australia Group activities was extended again in 1990 to include measures to prevent the proliferation of biological weapons. The lists of items controlled by Australia Group participating countries are reviewed regularly to minimise the risk of relevant dual-use materials being diverted to chemical or biological weapons programs. The Group contributes to the fulfillment of national obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). In particular, given the absence of an international organisation to facilitate implementation of the BWC, Australia Group participants' licensing requirements are the only current form of harmonised control over transfers of biological weapons items. The Australia Group currently consists of 40 countries and the European Commission. All Australia Group participants are State Parties to the CWC and the BWC. Australia is chair of the Group and also provides its Secretariat. The Australia Group convenes annual plenary meetings and experts meetings on an ad-hoc basis to consider issues relating to policy, information sharing, implementation and enforcement.
As we know, the Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force in August last year and it currently has 57 State Parties. Could you please inform us on Australia’s current status?
Australia was one of the first countries to sign the Convention and we are committed to ratifying it as soon as possible. Before we can ratify the Convention, we must complete our domestic treaty processes, including enactment of legislation to give effect to the Convention in domestic law. The Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibitions) Bill 2010 was passed by the Australian House of Representatives (Lower House of Parliament) on 18 November 2010 and is currently before the Australian Senate (Upper House of Parliament). Once all of the legislative and administrative measures to give effect to the Convention are in place, we will move as quickly as possible to lodge our instrument of ratification.
On the one hand, there are countries strongly upholding the implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions while, on the other hand, we have recently witnessed the use of cluster bombs in the conflict in Libya. Would you mind commenting on that?
The Australian Government is deeply concerned by reports that Colonel Qadhafi's forces have used cluster munitions in residential areas in Libya. While Libya is not a signatory to the Convention, if these allegations are correct, it is concerning that it has chosen to use munitions that are the subject of such widespread condemnation. The Convention emphasises the desirability of attracting the adherence of all States to the Convention and contains responsibilities for State Parties to promote the universalisation and full implementation of the Convention. Australia takes these responsibilities seriously. This incident underlines the need for all states to become a party to the Convention to end for all time the suffering and casualties caused by cluster munitions.
How do you see the role of RACVIAC in fostering dialogue and cooperation on security issues in the SEE region? Is there any room for extending its activities or scope of activities?
I, like my predecessors, have strongly supported the work of RACVIAC and am pleased to participate in the work RACVIAC does to address security issues in the region. I hope it will continue to address these issues and also continue to include the perspectives and experience of others from outside the region.
Your Excellency, you have been the Australian ambassador to Croatia since January 2010. How do you like Croatia and its people?
My posting to Croatia is my first time to visit this part of Europe – I have previously had two postings to Germany, so I am more familiar with northern Europe. Croatia is a beautiful country and the people are very welcoming. As you note there is a significant Croatian community in Australia, most of whom are dual Croatian/Australian nationals, and I have had many opportunities to meet and work with people of Croatian heritage throughout my career.
* Turkey recognizes the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.