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Country Reports
Greece, Landmine Monitor Report 2003


Key developments since May 2002: Greece has completed domestic measures necessary to ratify the Mine Ban Treaty and on 3 May 2003, Greece and Turkey issued a joint statement that they would adhere to the treaty simultaneously. In March 2003, the Ministry of Defense for the first time revealed the size of Greece’s stockpile of antipersonnel mines to be just over one million mines.

Mine Ban Policy

Greece signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997. On 19 March 2002, the Greek Parliament voted unanimously to ratify the treaty, which was published as Law 2999/2002 in the Official Gazette on 8 April 2002. Since then, the instrument of ratification has been held in New York, awaiting deposit at the United Nations.[1] After the Turkish parliament adopted accession legislation, the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey issued a joint statement on 3 May 2003 announcing their intention to simultaneously submit their respective instruments of ratification and accession.[2] No timetable was set for this to happen.

Greece participated as an observer in the Fourth Meeting of States Parties in September 2002. Ambassador Tassos Kriekoukis, the Permanent Representative of Greece to the UN in Geneva, described the Mine Ban Treaty as the most important instrument to achieve a mine-free world and noted that Greece is a member of the Human Security Network, which is encouraging other States to join the treaty. He also noted that Greece is carrying out mine clearance operations in the Epirus and Macedonia regions.[3]

On 8 October 2002, European parliamentarians asked if the presence of Greek mines along the country’s border with Turkey was compatible with the European Union policy in support of the total elimination of antipersonnel mines. The European Parliament responded that it was aware of the mine problem on the border and that Greece and Turkey were close to joining the Mine Ban Treaty.[4]

On 22 November 2002, Greece voted in favor of UN General Assembly Resolution 57/74, which calls for the universalization and implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty. Greece attended the intersessional Standing Committee meetings in February and May 2003.

Greece is party to Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and attended the Protocol’s Fourth Annual Conference of States Parties in December 2002. Greece submitted an annual report, as required by Article 13 of the Protocol, on 12 March 2002.

Production, Transfer and Stockpiling

Greece has had a moratorium on production and export of antipersonnel mines for a number of years.[5]

In March 2003, the Ministry of Defense revealed to Landmine Monitor that Greece’s antipersonnel mine stockpile totals 1,078,557 mines.[6] This was the first public declaration on the size of the stockpile. Previously, a 19 March 2001 report to a closed session of parliament had indicated a stockpile total of 1.25 million antipersonnel mines.[7] In May 2002, Greece reported to the Standing Committee on Stockpile Destruction that the stockpile includes four types of antipersonnel mines: M2 and M16 (deployed in minefields as well as stockpiled), M14 and DM31. Greece reported that two stockpile destruction options were under consideration.[8] Greece also possesses a fifth type of antipersonnel mine, the ADAM projectile.

Landmine Problem and Mine Clearance

Greece maintains minefields on its border with Turkey, along the Evros River in northern Greece. There are also mined areas dating from the Greek civil war (1947-1949) in the Epirus, Grammos, and Vitsi mountains, and in areas near the border with Bulgaria.

Greece has stated that its minefields along the border with Turkey are “clearly defined and marked, well above any standard established by Amended Protocol II and the relevant NATO” standards. From 28 August to 2 September 2002, the Landmine Monitor Greece researcher visited these border areas after making a request to the Ministry of Defense. Landmine Monitor observed a 1.7-meter-tall outer fence erected around the minefields, as well as two rows of older fencing further inside the minefields, and warning signs in red phosphorescent paint spaced between one and 1.5 meters apart.

In the northern regions, Greece has reported that there are “no properly defined minefields in this area and no maps, the number of dangerous devices to be removed is very large.... ‘Suspect areas’ to be cleared and secured in the mountains of Grammos and Vitsi alone, measure well over 40,000 hectares.”[9] In 2002, the Greek Army demined 66,000 square meters of mine-affected land in these regions, as part of an ongoing clearance operation.[10]

Clearance operations along the border with Bulgaria were completed in December 2001.[11]

Unexploded ordnance (UXO) left over from World War II continues to pose a threat. On 17 May 2003, a British mine was found by fishermen in the sea off Kavala and defused.[12] World War II UXO was found and destroyed at 2004 Olympics construction sites near Hellenikon airport outside of Athens.[13]

Mine Action Assistance

In 2002, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Service for International Development Cooperation provided mine action funding of approximately €1,571,000 (US$1.5 million), including €611,000 for demining in Bosnia and Herzegovina, €884,000 for demining in Lebanon, and €76,000 as a contribution to the UN Voluntary Fund for Assistance in Mine Action.[14]

The grants for Lebanon and Bosnia and Herzegovina funded demining projects by a Greek demining NGO, the International Mine Initiative (IMI), which was founded in 2000. IMI reported that in Bosnia and Herzegovina it carried out humanitarian clearance of 150,000 square meters of mine-contaminated land in District Brcko. This was IMI's third demining project in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It started demining operations in Lebanon in 2002, in the Nabatiyeh area.[15] In 2002 Greece also donated mine detection equipment to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.[16]

In 2002, Greek Army deminers took part in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.[17] Greek Army deminers were also involved in mine clearance in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the context of the international Stabilization Force (SFOR).[18]

Landmine Casualties

In 2002, 10 new mine casualties were reported: four were killed and six injured. There is no central register of mine casualties.[19] On 20 March 2002, two immigrants from Turkey were killed and another injured near the border village of Kastanies, 70 kilometers south of Gemisti, after entering a minefield, which an army official said was “clearly marked and even had fluorescent warning signs and a double perimeter fence.”[20] On 28 March, another immigrant was killed and three others were injured after straying into a fenced minefield, again near Gemisti. The immigrants were from Algeria, Iraq, and Morocco.[21] On 29 August 2002, one Turkish Kurd was killed and two more were slightly injured attempting to cross the Evros minefields near Vyssa.[22]

In 2001, ten civilians were killed and four injured in mine incidents. In addition, two Army mine clearers were killed while defusing a mine near Petritsi, Serres, on the Bulgarian border. According to the Greek military, since 1954, 30 personnel have been killed and 17 more injured in mine/UXO clearance operations.[23]

Greece has stated that fencing and marking of the minefields along the border between Greece and Turkey has been improved and that it now exceeds NATO standards. Based upon the number of migrants arrested, Greece estimates that these measures have resulted in reduction of mine incidents by almost 90 percent.[24]

Casualties continue to be reported in 2003. On 4 January 2003, two African immigrants were killed and another was severely injured after they strayed into an Evros minefield near Marassia in thick fog after crossing over from Turkey. The injured man was taken to a hospital in the nearby town of Didymotichon.[25] On 24 March 2003, it was reported that among a group of 20 Somali migrants, one man was killed and another injured in a minefield on the Evros border.[26]

A survey of media reports carried out by Médecins sans Frontières-Greece indicated that the number of mine casualties per year averaged eight between 1994 and 2002.[27] A press report in August 2002 said that illegal migration into Greece “has rocketed over the past decade, and minefield deaths have reached 64 since 1990.”[28]

Survivor Assistance

The Ministry of Defense and the National Health System are the main bodies in Greece involved in assistance to mine survivors. There is emergency medical treatment offered free at the hospitals in the mine-affected northeastern area. The treatment includes all nursing care, intensive care, and medicines. In addition, the Hellenic Red Cross provides physiotherapy and support. Mine casualties in the southern part of the Evros border area have been treated at Alexandroupolis General Hospital, and in the central and northern sections at Didymoteichon General and Army Hospitals. Greece has claimed previously that mine survivors receive full medical and rehabilitation assistance programs, including prosthetic services, with all expenses covered through the National Health System of Greece (ESY).[29] However, interviews carried out by the Landmine Monitor researcher in hospitals in northeastern Greece indicate that no prostheses are available, although some hospitals are seeking private sponsorship to finance the provision of prostheses in the future.

The Director of the Orthopedic Surgical Department at Alexandroupolis General Hospital reported the cost of treating 15 mine survivors between 1997 and 2002 totaled €38,179 in general nursing care (€73 for general nursing per day, 523 days for 15 patients). To this must be added intensive care costs and extras such as X-rays, splints, and pins.[30]

[1] Intervention by Greece, Standing Committee on General Status and Operation of the Convention, 12 May 2003; see also, Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 557.
[2] Statement by the Permanent Representative of Turkey on behalf of Turkish and Greek Delegations on the Ottawa Convention, Standing Committee on General Status and Operation of the Convention, Geneva, 12 May 2003; Karolos Grohmann, “Neighbors Greece and Turkey – Let’s Live in Peace,” Reuters, 23 May 2003.
[3] Intervention by Greece, Fourth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 18 September 2002 (Landmine Monitor notes).
[4] Question posed by Dr. André Brie and Jan Joost Lagendijk, European Parliament, 8 October 2002, RAT Art. 44; Reply by European Parliament No. E-2960/02, 20 February 2003.
[5] Apparently, the moratorium on export has been in place since 1994, and on production since 1997. See Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 829.
[6] Interview with Major Kontantinos Kalantzis and General Athanasios Kofos, Engineers Directorate, General Defense Headquarters, Ministry of Defense, Athens, 31 March 2003.
[7] Minutes of the Governmental 1st Period, Presidential Democracy, Second Meeting, 19 March 2002.
[8] Presentation by Major Ionannis Christogiannis, Standing Committee on Stockpile Destruction, Geneva, 30 May 2002.
[9] Article 13 Report, Form B, 11 December 2002.
[10] Interview with Major Kontantinos Kalantzis and General Athanasios Kofos, Engineers Directorate, General Defense Headquarters, Ministry of Defense, Athens, 31 March 2003.
[11] For more details, see Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 559-560.
[12] “Mine off Kavala,” Kathimerini (daily newspaper, English-language internet edition), 19 May 2003.
[13] “Two World War II Bombs Found in Athens,” Associated Press, 20 January 2003.
[14] Telephone interview with Dimitrios Skoutas, Embassy Secretary, D1 Directorate, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 25 July 2003; email from Dimitrios Skoutas, 28 July 2003.
[15] International Mine Initiative, www.deming.gr, accessed on 25 July 2003.
[16] Telephone interview with Dimitrios Skoutas, Embassy Secretary, D1 Directorate, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 25 July 2003; email from Dimitrios Skoutas, 28 July 2003.
[17] Report of Greece to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, 13 December 2002, p. 3.
[18] Intervention by Greece, Fourth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 18 September 2002.
[19] Interview with Maj. Kontantinos Kalantzis and Gen. Athanasios Kofos, Engineers Directorate, General Defense Headquarters, Ministry of Defense, Athens, 31 March 2003.
[20] “Two More Die in Evros Minefields,” Kathimerini (daily newspaper, English language edition), 21 March 2002; “Mines Spell Death for Illegals,” Athens News, 22 March 2002.
[21] “More Bad News,” Athens News Agency, 28 March 2002.
[22] “Mine Explosion Kills Immigrant,” Kathimerini, 29 August 2002.
[23] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 560-561.
[24] Ibid., p. 560.
[25] “Migrants Killed on Border,” Kathimerini, 7 January 2003.
[26] “ERT News,” ERT (press agency), 24 March 2003.
[27] Kathy Tzilivakis, “Greece to Scrap Evros Landmines Ahead of Turkey,” Athens News (weekly English language newspaper, 30 March 2002.
[28] “Mine Explosion Kills Immigrant,” Kathimerini, 29 August 2002.
[29] Amended Protocol II Article 13 Reports, Form B, submitted in March 2001 and on 10 December 2001. See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 561.
[30] Fax from Dr. Dion Verettas, Director of the Orthopedic Surgical Department, Alexandroupolis General Hospital, 23 December 2002.