On 16 March 2023, a Demining Action project funded by the European Union worth EUR 3.9 million was launched during an open-air event in Gračanica/Graçanicë, Kosovo. The HALO Trust and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) are implementing partners, with NPA leading the effort to clear cluster munitions and other explosive ordnance from the area.
“Even though significant progress has been achieved in demining activities, the mines still remain a threat to lives and livelihoods, hindering access, reconciliation, and development in Kosovo," said EU Ambassador in Kosovo, Tomas Szunyog. "The project's success will not only make Kosovo mine-free but also pave the way for tangible socio-economic development in the previously contaminated areas. The joint efforts between the EU, USA, and Norway demonstrate a successful model of donor cooperation for the benefit of Kosovo communities and can make a positive impact on the safety and socio-economic development of Kosovo's communities.”
Even though significant progress has been achieved in demining activities, the mines still remain a threat to lives and livelihoods, hindering access, reconciliation, and development in Kosovo.
Since 1999, funding for these life-saving efforts has been led by the US Department of State and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Over the past two decades, other contributors to the humanitarian work of HALO and NPA in Kosovo include the Governments of Japan, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
“We are committed to a Kosovo free of mines, and this program will bring us one step closer to that goal. These de-mining efforts are critical in ensuring the safety and security of the people, and they play a vital role in the region’s stability and development”, said Ms. Tamra Greig, Acting Deputy Chief of the US Embassy in Kosovo.
The objective of the project is to clear 400,000 square meters of land contaminated by mines and 3,600,000 square meters of cluster munition remnants (CMR), with the ultimate goal of providing secure access to local communities. These contaminated zones are located in natural reserves, mountains, forests, pastures, and agricultural land, which have hindered access to vital services, natural resources, and community spaces for tourism and social activities. Moreover, the initiative seeks to promote gender and minority representation for cultural diversity and dialogue.
“Norway has been a longstanding supporter of the demining efforts of the Norwegian People’s aid in the Western Balkans ever since the 90’s– the support adding up more than 70 mill EUR to date. Norway is committed to continue the support until the job is completed. Therefore, an additional 2 mill EUR has been granted for a 5- years period up until 2025 - with the aim of releasing areas contaminated with landmines, cluster munition remnants and other explosive remnants of war to return them back to local communities in Kosovo for their safe and productive use”, said Ms. Hilde Berit Eide, Deputy Head of Mission of the Norwegian Embassy in Kosovo.
“Demining in its broadest sens becomes a matter of peace, rights and well-being of people living in the post-conflict areas. Thanks to the tireless efforts of all of you present here today, hundreds of thousands of mines and other explosive remnants of war have been cleared and will be cleared every year. Removing the risk of mines and of unexploded ordnance is a pre-condition for the reconstruction of the country and the use of its natural and economic resources”, said Mr. Ahmet Sallova, Director of the Kosovo Mine Action Center in his address.
Demining in its broadest sens becomes a matter of peace, rights and well-being of people living in the post-conflict areas. Thanks to the tireless efforts of all of you present here today, hundreds of thousands of mines and other explosive remnants of war have been cleared and will be cleared every year.
NPA and HALO will release 4 km2 of contaminated land with this grant. They will increase their operational capacities by 30% with funding from the EU to scale-up operations for survey and clearance. Operations will be carried out in areas including Zubin Potok, Leposavić/Leposaviq, Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, Belincë/Belince, Rastavicë/Rastavica, and Kosharë/Koshare.
In addition to the attendance of delegations from the EU, US and Norwegian Embassies, the event in Gracanica was attended by the Director of Development Cooperation from the Office of the Prime Minister, Florim Canolli, KFOR’s Chief Explosive Threat Management Team Leader, Ciprian Andrica, members of KFOR's Liaison Monitoring Team, representatives from the Gracanica municipality, and representatives from the Kosovo Mine Action Center (KMAC).
The EU will continue to provide support for clearance of landmines and cluster munitions across Kosovo during the next three years, tangibly improving human security and economic development while bringing Kosovo one step closer to its strategic goal of being landmine and cluster munition free.
The Demining Action project is a result of close cooperation over the past three of years between the EU in Kosovo, the Government of Kosovo, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), and The HALO Trust.