THE HAGUE, Netherlands (15 October 2018) - State officials from five Western Balkan countries have agreed to step up cooperation to strengthen the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), during the sub-regional forum held in Tirana, Albania, earlier this month.
An announcement that the agreement had been reached was made on Monday by the OPCW.
In his opening remarks, the Programme Officer in the Implementation Support Branch of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Vaclovas Semaskevicius, said all participating countries had already adopted domestic legislation to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention and were now ready for "a more robust enforcement of the legal provisions, particularly through international cooperation."
Topics highlighted during the forum included: cross-border cooperation in controlling the transfer of toxic chemicals, safety and security measures in chemical facilities to minimise risks of chemical emergencies, and protocols in response to chemical incidents.
The participants developed a model blueprint of sub-regional collaboration on CWC matters, which identified government agencies and other stakeholders, as well as actions required to ensure the full implementation of the Convention.
The event was attended by 30 experts from CWC National Authorities, customs authorities, national defence and security, as well state agencies in charge of chemical safety and security matters from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.
Meantime, in Brussels foreign ministers from across the European Union have agreed on new sanctions against individuals, groups and entities using chemical weapons.
The agreement reached on Monday enables the European Union to freeze assets and ban visas of individuals and entities using chemical weapons - regardless of whether they are from Europe.
European Union individuals will also be prohibited from providing funds to those banned.
The measure follows the alleged use of chemical weapons by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in the UK in March.
Both the Balkans and EU initiatives are good news for the OPCW. As the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, the OPCW, which boasts 193 member states, (only Israeli is not a signatory) oversees the global endeavour to permanently eliminate chemical weapons.
Since the Convention's entry into force in 1997, it is the most successful disarmament treaty eliminating an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.
Over 96% of all chemical weapon stockpiles declared by possessor States have been destroyed under OPCW verification. For its extensive efforts in eliminating chemical weapons, the OPCW received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.