Address by Ambassador Christian Berger on the occasion of International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action during a Visit to the Turkish-Iranian border near Iğdır

Address by Ambassador Christian Berger on the occasion of International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action during a Visit to the Turkish-Iranian border near Iğdır

Address by Ambassador Christian Berger on the occasion of International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action during a visit to the Turkish-Iranian border near Iğdır within the scope of the project on

"Socio-Economic Development through De-mining and Increasing the Border Surveillance Capacity at the Eastern Borders of Turkey"

Aralık, Iğdır 4 April 2017

 

Distinguished Commander of the 3rd Army,

Distinguished Undersecretary of the Ministry of Defence,

Distinguished Director of the Turkish Mine Action Centre,

Distinguished Deputy Country Director of the United Nations Development Programme,

Distinguished participants and colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to join you today when the world commemorates the "International day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action".

Every year, several hundred innocent people, including, tragically, many children, step on landmines and suffer injury or even death.  When I was a UN peace-keeper in Syria some 30 years ago I unfortunately witnessed too many such events on the Golan Heights. 

In addition to the individual victims, landmines also take a serious social and economic toll, hindering development. Mine action aims to reduce the impact, with measures ranging from de-mining to victim assistance.

The international campaign against landmines led in 1997 to the conclusion of the Ottawa Convention, the Mine Ban Treaty which  obliges all State parties to cease the production, transfer, stockpiling, and use of anti-personnel landmines.

The EU has worked hard to get rid of mines around the world and to reduce the impact of mines on affected countries and their populations. Mine clearance and the removal of unexploded ordnance is a prerequisite for reconstruction and development; the EU has supported actions in Gaza after the conflicts in 2009 and 2014; and is involved in a huge mine clearing operation in North Africa of mines from the Second World War, in the Balkans, South-East Asia and many other places around the world. 

Clearing anti-personnel landmines is a top priority for the EU.  But this goes beyond the removal and destruction of mines, it covers also the protection of civilians and providing assistance to the affected communities. 

The EU's assistance to third countries together with the aid provided by the EU Member States bilaterally makes the European Union the largest donor in this fight against landmines, with more than €1.5 billion spent since 1997.  National ownership is a fundamental principle of EU cooperation and development policies. Priority is therefore giving to countries showing a clear Mine Action National Plan and a functioning Mine Action Centre.

Turkey, the EU, and UN are jointly working to clear mines laid more than 20 years ago while at the same time ensuring modern, humanitarian and but also stronger means of border security. We welcome the creation of a dedicated authority in charge of Mine Action in Turkey and are now looking forward to the important adoption of the National Mine Action Strategy.

Border management is a key element of the EU-Turkey co-operation on migration. The EU has been supporting Turkey's efforts to manage migratory flows and also to establish an effective and efficient border management system.

The EU started to provide financial assistance and technical expertise more than a decade ago.  On the basis of a successful EU–Turkey co-operation the main policy document was designed and forms today the framework of the concrete steps taken: this is the National Action Plan on Integrated Border Management, which was signed by the then Prime Minister, Mr Erdoğan.

Since then the field of migration and border management has become a joint priority for the EU and for Turkey.

We all have a common goal with this project: to eliminate the landmines at Turkey's borders and replace them with better and more effective border surveillance tools for more secure borders. This way, we reduce human suffering, boost socio-economic development, and strengthen border management by preventing irregular migration and all forms of illegal border crossings into Turkey.

To serve our common interest, in this two-phase project, we are clearing the landmines and supporting the capacity of the Turkish Mine Action Centre. We also train staff on risk-based border surveillance. Moreover, we are supplying 82 patrol vehicles to intensify the mobile surveillance capacity of the Land Forces. This year, 32 vehicles have already been delivered to Hatay, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Mardin, Van, Şırnak, Ağrı, and Iğdır. The rest of the vehicles will be provided by mid-August 2017.

Overall the funding for all these project activities amounts to €106 million with an EU contribution of €80 million.

The EU support for mine action in Turkey is not limited to this project. Through our human rights instrument, we have been delivering assistance to victims since 2014 through awareness-raising activities focused on the children who live in the mine-affected areas in Turkey's Eastern border provinces.

In conclusion, I would like to say that we in the EU are proud to contribute to de-mining activities in Turkey, and we very much appreciate the very professional cooperation with Turkey's military and civilian authorities, with our partners in UNDP and MECEM.

The EU will continue to support Turkey in strengthening the capacity for border management to prevent all forms of cross-border crimes and to better manage irregular migration.

Thank you very much.