Thank you, Mr. President.
The Balkans’ experience as a key source and transit point for illicit small arms transfers underscores the need for strong international standards to address trafficking challenges globally. Strong implementation of these standards is likewise critical.
Although the United States does not directly fund the Franco-German initiative, we’re committed to the initiative’s roadmap of implementing legal reform in each Balkan nation to curtail small arms trafficking by 2024.
From 2013 to 2017, the United States provided more than $18 million to assist Western Balkan countries with small arms and light weapons ammunition destruction, as well as physical security and stockpile management programs.
In December 2018 the United States sponsored a conference in Tirana for Western Balkans law enforcement leaders, which emphasized cross-border cooperation to stop trafficking in small arms and other contraband. We’ve also provided $3.5 million to Export Control and Border Security programs over the past few years, and in 2019, we plan to allocate more than $2 million in weapons destruction and stockpile security projects in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia.
Beyond funding these projects, the United States promotes cooperation among law enforcement organizations through eTrace, a systematic tracker of firearms recovered during criminal investigations. The eTrace web-based system, administered by our Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives within the U.S. Department of Justice, provides electronic exchange of data for guns used to commit crimes. We encourage those who have not entered into an agreement to use eTrace to join the ranks of Albania, Kosovo, and other European countries to help build a law enforcement network against illicit firearms trafficking.
The United States reaffirms our ongoing support for these and other programs that aim to stem the proliferation and illegal trade of small arms and light weapons. Taken together, these efforts have benefited communities and civilians by decreasing the risk of unplanned explosions and reducing excess and poorly administered munitions that are attractive to criminals, arms traffickers, and terrorist groups in the region.