Vientiane Times: “EU committed to supporting UXO clearance in affected nations”

Posted: Nov 11, 2010


EU committed to supporting UXO clearance in affected nations

The European Union is very concerned about the impact of cluster munitions and is committed to continuing its support for affected nations, including Laos, despite not all 27 member states joining the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions.

EU representative on non-proliferation and disarmament Ms Annalisa Giannella spoke to Lao media this week after leading the EU delegation to attend the cluster munitions conference, which opened in Vientiane on Tuesday.

“I’m here today and I’m able to make a statement on behalf of the EU. All 27 member states share the humanitarian concern surrounding cluster munitions. However, the ratification process is very long, especially with the current parliamentary regime we have in the EU,” she said.

“There are more and more ratifications which will be made in the coming months and years, and in many cases you can count on the EU. Even if not all member states ratify it today, you can count on the EU as a major donor not only in Laos but all over the world in taking action against unexploded ordnance.”

The combined aid of EU member states to all countries amounted to over 1.8 billion euros over the last 10 years, almost half of the world’s total financial assistance in that period.

Ms Giannella explained that the EU prides itself on cooperating with countries, the UN, NGOs and civil society, as part of efforts to assist affected countries clear the bombs, help victims and develop.

“Our expectation is that this meeting will see the adoption of the action plan, which is very important given it has only been four months since the convention entered into force,” she said.

The Oslo Convention is a unique and historical instrument and the EU, whose policy is guided by the principle of effective multilateralism, will work to ensure its universalisation and full implementation.

An EU press release states that unless major producers and traders of cluster munitions change their policies, the impact of any action will be limited.

Laos is the most UXO-affected nation in the world, with about 37 percent of the nation’s total surface area contaminated with UXO. As an agricultural nation, this restricts Lao people in their access to farmland which could alleviate their poverty.

The assistance to Laos over the last 10 years by the EU and its member states amounts to 29 million euros.

Five comprehensive UXO projects are currently funded by the EU, and assistance is set to increase between 2011 and 2013.

Notably, during this period, at least 3 million euros per year of the EU assistance to Laos will go to the UXO sector.

Ambassador-Head of the European Union Delegation Mr David Lipman said that when he sent a letter of accreditation to the Lao president, the president replied that he would be very grateful if the EU continued to help Laos deal with the problem of UXO. Mr Lipman responded that he would try his best to assist in the matter.

by Somsack Pongkhao
(Latest Update November 11, 2010)

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