France has stepped up its international action in the fight against illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons (SALW) following the terrorist attacks on its national territory in 2015. In particular, it chaired the Third Review Conference of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, held in New York from 18 to 29 June 2018.
At the Western Balkans Summit in Trieste on 12 July 2017, the President of the French Republic proposed that France play a leading role in combatting illicit SALW trafficking in the region, which has large firearms stockpiles. Europol estimates that a total of between 3.2 million and 6.2 million weapons are currently in circulation in the Western Balkans.
In line with the remarks by the President of the French Republic, in late 2017, France and Germany launched an initiative to coordinate the fight against firearms trafficking in the Western Balkans in order to enhance dialogue and cooperation with the authorities of the six countries in the region, improve coordination of donors and begin new work to better fight illicit SALW trafficking in the region.
The Franco-German initiative has two components:
- A regional roadmap to fight SALW trafficking in the Western Balkans has been drawn up in consultation with the six countries in the region. It identifies seven major objectives which the governments in the region have committed to achieve by 2024, and sets out specific monitoring indicators. The countries in the region will draw up national action plans to implement the roadmap’s objectives.
The roadmap was presented and adopted by the Heads of State and Government at the Western Balkans Summit in London (9-10 July 2018).
- Local coordination meetings were organized by France and Germany in each of the six Western Balkan countries during 2018. They brought together bilateral donors, representatives from host countries and international, regional and non-governmental organizations actively involved in combatting SALW trafficking.
These meetings aimed to review the actions taken, initiate dialogue with authorities on progress achieved and the main areas to be strengthened, and discuss opportunities for shared action and financing among donors.
Meetings were held in Montenegro (February 2018), Serbia (April) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (June), as well as in Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo in autumn 2018.
To complete the first year of the Franco-German Initiative, France hosted a high-level meeting in Paris in December 2018. The Paris meeting helped to centralize the information from local meetings and to announce measures to strengthen cooperation and provide new funding to allow countries in the region to implement the roadmap’s objectives.
Updated: February 2020