Migration flows and social cohesion in South-East Europe: the role of local and regional authorities - CG (11) 9 Part II

Mohammad NAZIR, United Kingdom,
Chamber of Regions
Political Group: SOC



I General Overview

The violent dissolution of the former Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia led to the biggest massive flow of population in Europe since the Second World War. Forced displacement on a large scale occurred both within and between the single states of the region (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) as well as towards other countries outside the region. More than three million people were forced to leave their homes at least for a certain period of time.

Most of the countries in the region lost a huge number of their domicile population and acted as reception countries, especially for specific ethnic groups1. In that context most of them now face a double problem: on the one hand they are obliged to allow their 1991 domicile population to return home if these refugees/internally displaced persons wish to do so; on the other, they have to integrate locally all those who do not wish to return to their former places of origin. In both cases, it represents an additional burden for their generally depressed and underdeveloped economies.

The dynamics of these massive population flows has been different; however, this took place over an entire decade between 1991 and 2001, and was especially strong in four different periods:

The first and largest population flow occurred between 1991 and 1995, during the war in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Over that period, in Bosnia and Herzegovina alone more than two million citizens (out of a total number of 4.3 million of its pre-war population) left their places of origin. The second phase coincided with the war in Kosovo in 1999, when in a relatively short period almost one million people were forced to leave their homes.

The third and fourth waves of arrivals coincided with the hostilities in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and in Southern Serbia when 250,000 and 20,000 persons respectively left their homes, thus becoming refugees or Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).


In particular, at the beginning of the war in Croatia (1991) some 220,000 IDPs (mostly ethnic Croats) fled from occupied areas of the country to the areas under government control. Shortly afterwards, Croatia had to contend with another major massive flow: as the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina broke out in 1992, about 350,000 refugees, mostly ethnic Croats and Bosniaks fled to Croatia. However, it is very difficult to estimate with any degree of accuracy how many refugees fled to Croatia in the last decade. According to the Croatian authorities, an estimated 120,000 of them already had Croatian citizenship or have never been registered as refugees, and are now considered to be fully integrated into Croatian society.

In contrast, at the end of the conflict in Croatia, almost 200,000 ethnic Serbs fled the country, in particular from the Krajina (area of Knin) and Western Slavonia areas of Croatia.

By November 2003, 13,995 Internally Displaced Persons and 4,357 refugees (3,894 refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina, 453 refugees from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)2 were registered in Croatia. Some of them, belonging to both groups (especially the elderly, single mothers with children and people with disabilities), were still living in collective centres.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

As mentioned above, almost 2.2 million citizens belonging to the three largest ethnic groups living in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosniaks, Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats) were forced to leave their homes during the conflict. Of this number, almost one million have remained within Bosnian territory as IDPs, and more than half a million left for Croatia and the former Yugoslavia.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite enormous international efforts to enable both refugees and IDPs to return to their pre-war places of origin and despite the unquestionable success of those efforts particularly in past few years, the problem is far from being solved. By October 2003 there were still 333,850 IDPs in Bosnia and Herzegovina3, who were unable or unwilling to return to their homes. In addition, 22,830 refugees were registered: some 19,785 Croatian Serbs and some 3,045 refugees from Federal Republic Of Yugoslavia (mostly from Kosovo)4. In the same period some 2,166 IDPs and 718 refugees have continued to live in collective centres, in very poor and inadequate conditions, depending entirely on humanitarian aid.

Serbia and Montenegro

Serbia and Montenegro received massive flows of refugees and IDPs throughout the whole of the last decade. Half of all the registered refugee population arrived between 1991 and 19955 from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. This influx decreased after 1998 when only 2 percent of refugees arrived in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia6. However, in 1998 and especially 1999, massive flows of IDPs from Kosovo occurred7. In Montenegro alone, when the situation was at its most critical, the number of refugees and IDPs reached 20% of the total Montenegrin population8.

In addition, albeit in more limited numbers, Serbia and Montenegro also hosted a number of IDPs and refugees who arrived following the hostilities in Presevo Valley in Southern Serbia and in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” in 2000 and 20019.

As at November 2003 Serbia and Montenegro was hosting around 289,680 refugees and 224,833 IDPs (making a total of 514,513 persons)10. Among the refugees, there were 189,472 from Croatia and 99,761 from Bosnia and Herzegovina, followed by a small number of refugees from “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Slovenia (10 and 437 refugees respectively). In the same period there were 224,833 IDPs (from Kosovo) registered. However, the “burden sharing” of the presence of those refugees and IDPs is quite unequal. Most are situated on the territory of Serbia (276,281 refugees and 206,789 IDPs) while Montenegro hosts “only” 13,339 refugees and 18,044 IDPs.

Of this huge number some 17,416 refugees and IDPs are still living in collective centres, in precarious conditions, with inadequate food and no income (more than 60% of them have no income at all) and no prospects for the future. In addition, some 6,000 of them are living in unofficial centres, thus receiving no governmental assistance11.

In October 2003 Kosovo was hosting 1,600 refugees from “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and 27,000 IDPs. Of the latter some 22,000 were so-called “minority IDPs” ie persons that have moved within Kosovo because they are minorities in their places of origin (this usually includes ethnic Serbs but also ethnic Albanians). Some other 5,000 are IDPs from Southern Serbia.

As in Croatia, some refugees in Serbia and Montenegro have never been registered as such or have already acquired new citizenship. Therefore it is very difficult to ascertain the exact number of refugees that Serbia and Montenegro has hosted over the last decade.

“The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”

During the worst conflict in the central part of former Yugoslavia (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro), “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” hosted a few thousand refugees. However at present only a few dozen people who came to “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” following the conflict have remained refugees in the country.

On the other hand, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” had to cope with massive arrivals of approximately 360,000 refugees from Kosovo from April to June 1999. A great majority of refugees at that time were ethnic Albanians who repatriated after June 1999. In November 2003, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” remained host to 2,500 refugees from ethnic minorities in Kosovo, some 450 of whom were living in one collective centre.

In addition, between February and August 2001, close to 180,000 persons were displaced by the conflict in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. About half of them were internally displaced persons while another 80,000 (mostly ethnic Albanians) sought refuge in Kosovo. Of these, 2,800 IDPs remain in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (more than half are ethnic Macedonians) while 1,500 refugees remain in Kosovo.

II Current situation: General and specific problems

In the last few years, as a result of major political changes all over the region, the process of return is proceeding on a much larger scale and is becoming a reality for many. The new political context has had a very positive - direct or indirect - impact on the process of returning home. At present, despite the many obstacles that remain, attempts are continuing to find lasting solutions for many refugees and IDPs in the region.

According to some estimates, since the end of the hostilities around 2 million people have returned to their places of origin. Almost 130,000 persons are thought to have found a permanent solution in the course of 2002 alone12, either through returns or through integration into the local community.

However, until recently, massive returns related primarily to the so-called majority returns. Whereas majority returns took place quickly and on a large scale following the Dayton Peace Agreements in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and once the hostilities in Kosovo had ended, the key problem in South-Eastern Europe has been (and in part still is) the return of minorities – ie persons who find themselves in a minority situation in their place of origin. Fortunately, the new political and security environment has had a significant impact on increasing the number of minority returns.

This positive trend is especially true for Bosnia and Herzegovina where - even though many obstacles remain – the international community and local authorities have helped to create relatively favourable conditions for minority returns by ensuring that appropriate property restitution mechanisms are implemented. There were more minority returns to Bosnia in 2001 than in the whole period from the end of the conflict (1995) up to that point. In 2002 alone, there were 107,900 minority returns (UNHCR/February 2003)13.

Despite a large increase of returnees since 2001, the process of return in Croatia is much slower and the subject of fierce debate – sometimes more political than humanitarian. According to the Croatian authorities, by summer 2003 some 100,000 ethnic Serb refugees were thought to have returned to Croatia14. On the other hand, the Serbian Commissioner for Refugees considers that no more than 30,000 of them had returned in practice. In any event, while the annual figures of minority returns in BiH have increased significantly every year since 1999, this did not happen in Croatia.

As far as Kosovo is concerned, the situation is much more complicated. While almost 900,000 ethnic Albanians returned home immediately after the conflict, minorities still live in the province and their prospects for return are currently limited by widespread security concerns. Out of a total number of some 262,000 non-ethnic Albanian minorities displaced within South-Eastern Europe (mostly ethnic Serbs but also Roma, Ashkalia, Egyptians and Albanians) only a few thousand have returned home.

As a consequence of all the above, at present approximately 950,000 refugees or IDPs are still in need of a lasting solution in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro (including Kosovo).

Many of them have expressed their wish to return. Others, at least for the moment, seem to prefer to integrate into the local community, for a variety of reasons that will be analysed below.

Security environment/issues

As already mentioned, with the exception of Kosovo, freedom of movement is now guaranteed and the safety environment for minority returns has generally improved in the last few years. However some isolated incidents continue to represent a threat to returns15.

In addition, despite a completely changed political context, there are still some obstacles at the level of certain national or local governments. On the one hand, at national level, some governments one way or another try to discourage massive returns that would endanger the “ethnic stability” of individual countries or entities brought about by the “ethnic cleansing” policies and practices pursued by their predecessors in the recent past. On the other, and where national-level authorities have assured the international community of their commitment to minority returns, in different local situations groups of hardliners still persist and continue to put in place all sorts of local/regional obstacles that effectively render minority returns impossible. Today, “political” obstruction tends to take the form of legal and administrative barriers and other more “sophisticated“ forms of discrimination, rather than open and violent opposition. However, most of these local situations have improved significantly over the last few years. Some municipalities in the Republika Srpska for example, that in the immediate aftermath of the war put up considerable resistance to the process of returns, are now among the municipalities offering significant possibilities for returns.

Even in Kosovo, following the request from the Office of the Prime Minister for the presidents of municipal assemblies to make public statements on the importance of the right to return, some local Albanian political leaders have finally started to co-operate in the return process. Nevertheless, these statements and other messages given by Albanian leaders calling for the return of displaced persons are not enough; considerably more responsibility on the part of the local authorities is needed in order to overcome the obstructive attitude of those Albanians who took possession of the property belonging to refugees and IDPs and who are now opposing return16. In any event, it is still too early to assess whether the messages referred to above are inspired only by the wish to please the international community or whether they reflect the beginnings of a genuine will to engage in the return of minorities17.

Last but not least, in many local authorities there are still enormous problems with the neutralisation of mines which will require years of intensive international support18. However, with the notable exception of Kosovo, security reasons are no longer among the most important factors in the decision to return. Over the last few years such concerns have been replaced by other issues, primarily economic and social.

Housing and property repossession

Mass displacement, destruction and deprivation of property were the main characteristics of the unfortunately named process of “ethnic cleansing”. Accordingly, property reconstruction and repossession (including tenancy rights) are universally recognised as essential for the creation of a lasting solution to the problem of refugees and displaced persons in South-Eastern Europe. Clearly the decision to return will depend primarily on whether refugees and displaced persons will in practice be able to repossess their property.

This issue is, in some cases, connected to the problem of the lack of alternative housing for those occupying returnees’ property illegally; this continues to represent an important obstacle to massive returns. Nevertheless, as a result of the huge international pressure in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially through the legislative reforms and the enforcement of new legislation (the so-called PLIP - Property Legislation Implementation Plan) by 31 July 2003, more than 86% of property repossession applications had been successful and in some municipalities there has even been a 100% success rate. The whole PLIP process was expected to be substantially completed by the end of 200319.

In this respect, the process of repossession in Croatia is much slower, with particular problems regarding the repossession of property and tenancy rights20. However, on 12 July 2002 the Croatian Parliament passed the Law on Changes and Amendments to the 1996 Law on Areas of Special State Concern. The aim of the new Law is to establish a more efficient procedure for repossession by the legal owners of their property, taken over and assigned to temporary users. The procedure established by this Law replaced the old procedure for the restitution process set up by the 1998 Return Programme, deemed to be highly complicated and inefficient. In line with the new amendments, the Housing Commissions established by the 1998 Return Programme were abolished on 31 August 2002, largely because they were inefficient and discriminatory.

In addition, the Croatian Government recently adopted a Decision on Compensation to Owners who have Suffered Damage21. According to this Decision, for all privately owned houses not returned to their owners within a certain deadline the Croatian Government undertakes to pay compensation on a monthly basis until final repossession22.

However, property repossession does not always correspond to effective return. Quite often “returnees” rent or sell their properties, because other essential conditions for sustainable return have not been fulfilled. The term “paper return” is often used to describe this phenomenon. However, even in the case of “paper return” the individual has effective freedom of choice for a lasting solution: local integration (in such cases this will be made all the easier if the person in question can obtain compensation for his original property) or voluntary repatriation.

In addition to the issue of property repossession, it should be noted that about a million housing units were destroyed or badly damaged during the various conflicts. Despite unprecedented international donor efforts, especially in certain specific cases, there is the persisting problem of the reconstruction of destroyed or heavily damaged houses. However, available resources are not sufficient. In Bosnia and Herzegovina alone, according to UNHCR, some 50,000 destroyed or heavily damaged houses are in urgent need of reconstruction, representing an estimated total cost of 450 million euros. According to the Bosnian authorities23, for the National Strategy for the implementation of Annex VII of the Dayton Peace Agreements to be fully carried out, it is necessary to rebuild around 12,000-15,000 housing units a year. Other countries, such as Croatia, did not receive such significant international support and have therefore experienced serious budgetary problems for reconstruction. It is estimated that the cost to the Croatian state of providing alternative housing for the current occupants and arranging property repossession for the owners amounted to approximately 80 million euros in 2003 alone24.

For all the above reasons alternative housing measures need to be found. A fund for the reconstruction of pre-war housing is not sufficient. Serious efforts to build new social housing units are required by all countries in the region.

At present, in the countries in question, there is no specific housing legislation designed to address the housing needs of certain vulnerable groups who cannot afford to buy an apartment at the current market price. These countries generally have limited funds for these purposes and are not able to provide significant social benefits for housing needs. A few social benefits for housing are, however, provided, but these are limited to certain categories of the population.

In Croatia, there are some provisions relating to housing benefits in the Law on Social Care. This law stipulates that social benefits for housing are the responsibility of the local administrative units (municipalities). Each municipality can indeed decide autonomously on the amount of social benefits for housing25. In addition, reference should also be made to the new Funded Housing Construction programme26.

As far as Bosnia and Herzegovina is concerned the situation is even more problematic, due also to the complex state structure of the post-Dayton state. Each entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina has its own welfare competence. In addition, in FBIH there is almost no single policy and practice in the social sector. The Law on the Basis of Social Welfare, Protection of Civilian War Victims and Families with Children of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina27 is competent only for general policies in this matter, whereas its legal enactment is under the competence of the autonomous administrative units (cantons). As far as the Republika Srpska is concerned, the Law on the Republika Srpska Housing Fund28 makes provision for a housing policy for certain vulnerable groups29.

In Montenegro, certain protective measures for vulnerable groups are to be found in both the Law on Housing Relations of Montenegro30 and the Law on Social and Child Care31.

According to the Law on Housing Relations of Montenegro the apartments, over which the municipalities have the right of disposal obtained through nationalisation, confiscation, inheritance and gift and financial means, or by sale may be used for: 1) solving the housing needs of World War II veterans, civilians with disabilities and socially vulnerable groups and 2) solving the housing needs of persons evicted from unhygienic or sub-standard apartments32. In addition, this law contains explicit obligations for the local administrative units to provide socially vulnerable groups with apartments in order to solve their housing needs, and to subsidise the rent paid by users of apartments belonging to this group.

According to the Law on Social and Child Care there is no specific provision relating to vulnerable groups for satisfying their housing needs. There is only an indirect possibility to receive material support through general social assistance in the form of a family material support service, i.e. it is possible to receive a cash payment which, at the discretion of the competent authorities (Centre for Social Care), could also be used to satisfy housing needs. However, this payment is subject to the assessment of the competent social care authority which looks at the actual social needs33.

To conclude on this point, it could be said that in the particular post-war situation, all the countries in question have enacted very limited provisions containing social protection measures relating to housing needs, and the provisions that have been enacted have been limited to specific vulnerable groups (eg war veterans). The main reasons for this almost total absence of social policies are linked to the extremely weak economic basis and the limited availability of social funds for providing such social assistance in the field of housing.

Social and economic rights

In most of the region the process of return is no longer mainly a political or security problem. On the contrary, this process is now more than ever connected with sustainability and economic revitalisation.

Quite often in recent years the issue of return was considered primarily only as a question of safety or of property repossession. However, it has been noted that many returnees have continued to depend totally on humanitarian aid upon their return. People are often returning to remote mountain villages or to underdeveloped areas with poor social infrastructure. In addition, the economic situation of these areas is usually much worse than the general situation of society as a whole, which in itself is generally bad. The economies of all countries of the region are generally depressed34 and welfare systems, where they exist, are not operating properly.

As a result of all these factors many, after having returned, decide to return again to their countries of asylum. Returns are considered as non-sustainable if one person has opted for repatriation but is not provided with the wherewithal to ensure his or her continued survival in his or her place of origin35. In other words, return without social and economic reintegration is not a sustainable return. People who return should be guaranteed access to jobs and to other services in a non-discriminatory way. On the other hand, and notwithstanding certain areas in BiH, Croatia and of course Kosovo, the lack of income and the lack of economic prospects in their places of origin are becoming the main reason not to return.

Other sustainability-related issues include discriminatory practices and obstruction against returnees in respect of employment, pensions, health care, education and access to public services.

The dividing line between lack of employment opportunities and discriminatory employment practices is relatively unclear in the areas to which people are returning. Very often in those areas the problem of unemployment (which is generally a serious one in all the countries of the region), is acute. Returnees encounter particular difficulties in reintegrating into generally depressed employment markets. Those refugees and displaced persons who were dismissed during the war (quite often because they had to flee the area because of their ethnic origin) are usually unable to get their old jobs back36. In fact, lack of employment is one of the most significant deterrents to sustainable return. Lasting reintegration is possible only if at least one member of a family is employed and, generally speaking, only when the “critical minimum level” of the needs of returnees is reached simultaneously or in quick order of succession.

The inadequacy of social systems is another important obstacle to return. Many of the returnees are unemployed and do not have the right to health care or, where they do have such a right, it is difficult for them to exercise it. Some of these social and welfare problems are closely connected to the lack of concrete co-operation between the different states and entities in the region. In some cases, bilateral agreements have still not been negotiated37. In other cases, implementation of the existing legislation and agreements between the Health Insurance Funds is difficult or impossible in practice because of numerous administrative and other barriers.

Education problems are also a main factor in preventing people from deciding to return. Many school buildings in villages and smaller municipalities have been heavily damaged or destroyed and returnee children often have to travel long distances to reach their new school. Moreover, they are often forced to learn different and sometimes offensive versions of their own history and religion. Teacher training and recruitment is often based on nationality; in this way schools became “ethnically cleansed”. These problems particularly affect younger families with children - who account for a large proportion of the population still displaced. A significant part of them have no other choice but to remain where they have sought refuge so that their children can continue their schooling.

On the other hand, those that decide not to return but to integrate locally also have many problems to contend with. Many of them are forced to leave their temporary residence, and/or are accommodated in collective centres, or rent accommodation on their own. Some are obliged to accept alternative accommodation that is generally inadequate and poor. Others, with or without the support of the authorities, build new houses on the outskirts of the cities where they wish to integrate locally. Such new areas often lack the necessary infrastructure and have serious water and electricity supply problems.

In addition, the problem of unemployment is also widespread among refugees and internally displaced persons. According to the most recent registration of refugees in Serbia, only 20% of refugees stated that they were employed, and 45% were registered as unemployed38. Unemployment among internally displaced persons in Kosovo was even more acute: up to 90% of them are believed to be unemployed and without any regular income39.

Refugees and IDPs often have difficulties in accessing services or allowances, including transferring pensions and other benefits. Some of these problems are closely connected with the issue of citizenship, and legal status in general.

III Possible “lasting solutions”: local integration or repatriation?

Despite the improving returns situation in the entire area of South-Eastern Europe, the promotion of long-term solutions for refugees or IDPs remains a priority. For many reasons, return remains the best possible solution to the problems of refugees and IDPs. Nevertheless, not all solutions involve return; some involve local integration. Efforts in support of return must now be supplemented by programmes to assist those who do not wish to return to their places of origin but seek to integrate locally.

In other words, every person should be assisted in freely making a decision either to return or to integrate and be helped in his or her choice.

The individual choice between return and local integration, in addition to its humanitarian dimension, also has a strong political implication. One of the important messages of returns, especially of minority returns, was that of reversing the policy of “ethnic cleansing”, and consequently re-establishing multiethnic societies. Some governments in the area seem to be especially concerned about this issue (for example the government of Serbia in relation to the return of Serbian IDPs to Kosovo, and “Bosniak” elements within the government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in relation to the return of Bosniaks to the Republika Srpska). However, even assuming that safety conditions and property repossession (as key issues related to return) will improve in the coming years, local integration is becoming a reality or at least a prospect for many. The changed political, demographic, economic and social context in their places of origin coupled with the exhaustion from waiting for return opportunities for nearly ten years for some, have prompted many to integrate into the local community. In addition, the war has to some extent accelerated the process of urbanisation, by encouraging migration flows towards urban and more developed economic centres. Many refugees and IDPs do not want to return to rural areas, with their limited educational, social and economic opportunities. This is particularly true for the youngest and more active part of the population that is already far ahead in the process of local integration in their new place of residence, but it is also true for some single elderly people, orphans or children with a single parent who no longer have any links in their place of origin.

UNHCR estimates that most of those who wish to return will do so in the short term. Others who may do so at a later stage will probably choose local integration at least for the short or medium term.

According to the estimate contained in the Agenda for regional action40, it may be assumed that approximately only 30-40% of the total number of remaining refugees and IDPs will return home in the short term (with the notable exception of Kosovo and possibly some areas in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”).

This means that some 600-700,000 people (equating to 150,000-175,000 families) will opt for local integration at least for a certain period. In particular, this means that in Bosnia and Herzegovina some 250,000-300,000 IDPs and refugees (mainly from Croatia) will choose to integrate locally at least in the short term. In Serbia and Montenegro some 240,000 people (equating to 60,000 families) may choose local integration, while in Croatia at least 4,000 families are willing to integrate locally41.

According to the recent forecasts of the Bosnian authorities42 interest for prompt return has been shown by some 400,000 refugees and IDPs out of total number of around one million and one hundred pre-war Bosnian citizens who are still displaced.

Most of the refugees that have been surveyed recently in Serbia and Montenegro have also shown no major interest in returning to their places of origin. According to the National Strategy for Resolving the Problems of Refugees, Expellees and Displaced Persons,out of 377,000 registered refugees in Serbia, 227,500 (60%) have chosen local integration”43. Based on the registration of refugees and IDPs carried out in Serbia and Montenegro in April 2001 only 6% were sure to return, 25% were still undecided and 10% did not answer the question. More recently an estimated 68,000 out of 245,000 refugees from Croatia44 have expressed their wish to return.

According to a 2002 official survey45 local integration would also be the preferred solution for the great majority of displaced persons in Montenegro.

Hence, the refugee-related issue in Serbia and Montenegro is considered to be mostly a question of local integration. Refugees who have opted for local integration are mainly young people.

The main factor influencing the decision not to return is the length and highly complex procedure for the restitution of property and/or tenancy rights in some countries (particularly in Croatia and in Kosovo). A lack of prospects upon return is also another significant factor which prompts people to choose this option. In contrast, security concerns are the main reason for not returning to Kosovo.

Obviously this situation could change depending on the improvement in the overall situation in some countries46, but the number of persons that integrate locally will probably remain very high. Even bearing in mind a situation where everybody would have an opportunity to return and exercise their rights, support for integration from local and international sources may ultimately need to be increased in order to address the urgent and considerable social and economic consequences of a high number of people wishing to integrate locally.

Acknowledgement of this situation should not mean reduced emphasis on returns which continue to be the preferred option rather than local integration. In addition, it should not affect access to property or other rights obtained prior to the war. Property repossession (including tenancy rights) and/or just compensation for such loss remains crucial and is a cornerstone for resolving the problems of refugees and IDPs. Sometimes it may even indirectly help local integration if a person obtains compensation from his or her original property47. The rights of those who wish to stay and be integrated within the country should be guaranteed together with measures enabling them to fully participate in their “new” society. The main objective of local integration is to enable refugees and their households to live an independent life, which in social and economic terms is comparable to the life of other citizens. In that sense local integration requires much more than humanitarian assistance. Refugees and IDPs should be included in programmes addressing social services, housing and employment in order to avoid their social exclusion. Ultimately (in the longer term), they should be entitled to obtain citizenship.

IV The role of local and regional authorities

With limited competences and even more limited resources, local and regional authorities in the region have to manage problems of vital importance for large numbers of returnees as well as for those who wish to integrate locally, and at the same time try to avoid major social and ethnic tensions. While central government should provide a framework for the solution of “macro” issues their practical implementation falls to the local authorities. However, many local administrators publicly point to serious difficulties in satisfying the basic needs of returnees and refugees or IDPs who do not wish to return, at this critical time of increased returns across the area.

In order to understand better the nature of the general and specific problems relating to the still huge presence of refugees or IDPs and/or returnees on the territory of local authorities in South-Eastern Europe a specific questionnaire was drawn up and sent to local and regional authorities across the region.

The main objectives of this questionnaire were:

The questionnaire was divided into three parts:

The second and third parts of the questionnaire also contained questions relating to the sources of financing for the implementation of integration policies and other similar measures.

Analysis of the Questionnaire

As of 31 December 2003 only twenty four (24) questionnaires had been returned to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. These have accordingly been taken into consideration for the preparation of this report. More specifically, eighteen municipalities from Serbia and Montenegro48, five municipalities from Croatia49 and one municipality from Bosnia and Herzegovina50 had replied by this date. No questionnaire was returned from “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”51.

While the replies from Serbian and Croatian local authorities offer quite a representative survey of the situation in their respective countries, unfortunately it is not the case as far as the municipalities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Montenegro are concerned. In addition, while generally speaking the replies provide a relatively complete overview of the general and specific52 problems encountered in practice by local authorities, the parts of the questionnaires relating to the type of measures they are putting in place often contain no major details about individual action.

Eight questionnaires in particular were not fully completed. For example, the municipalities of Valjevo, Vranje, Zemun and Smederevo from Serbia did not answer the first part of the questionnaire relating to the general characteristics and general problems of their municipality. In contrast, the municipality of Petrinja in Croatia did not answer the second and third parts of the questionnaire. The municipalities of Apatin, Nova Crnja, Kragujevac and Vranje did not answer the questions relating to returnees. In this last case however, we may assume that they correctly interpreted that part of the questionnaire (which, in fact, refers to the problem of refugees and/or IDPs who have returned to the municipality completing the questionnaire and not the refugees and IDPs who have left that municipality in order to return to another).

The presence of refugees and IDPs continues to be a problem for the municipalities that replied to the questionnaire.

Seventeen out of twenty-three municipalities53 still have collective centres (and in two municipalities they were closed on 1 July 2003). More specifically, on the territory of the municipalities concerned there are still 48 collective centres hosting at least54 5,800 refugees and internally displaced persons.

Returnees are located in almost all the municipalities in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina which replied to the questionnaire. A few municipalities in Serbia and Montenegro also referred to this problem. However, from their replies and in the light of what we ourselves know55, it is clear that they misunderstood the real meaning and objectives of that part of the questionnaire56. While the question on “basic needs” was to be understood as referring to the number of “municipalities experiencing the “dual” problem of people wishing to return to those municipalities after the war and those wishing to be locally integrated there”, with all probability those municipalities were referring to the refugees or IDPs wishing to return to their place of origin, and therefore, those who would be leaving their territory in the near future.

General characteristics and problems of the municipalities involved (based on an analysis of the completed questionnaires received)

The municipalities that replied to the questionnaire were very different in size. The largest that replied was the municipality of Novi Sad in Serbia with a total of 304,519 inhabitants. The smallest was the municipality of Hrvatska Kostajnica in Croatia with only 2,746 inhabitants.

All municipalities cited unemployment as the main problem. In only three cases57 the percentage of unemployed people is lower than 10%. Apart from two very small municipalities (Topusko58 and Lipovljani59), only the municipality of Rijeka has less than 10% unemployed (9.78%). All those three municipalities are located in Croatia.

In addition, fifteen out of twenty municipalities60 underlined the difficulties they encountered in promoting economic development on their territory. Although the relative priority of the different problems was not made explicit in some of the replies, it was clear that the problems of economic development and unemployment are the two most important problems encountered by local authorities in South-Eastern Europe.

Nine municipalities pointed out problems of housing shortages and six of them stated that they were unable to deliver social/health services to the population. The other problems identified by the questionnaire are evidently of minor importance: only four municipalities referred to problems in the field of education (without specifying the kind of problem they encountered) and four mentioned other problems61. Only three municipalities mentioned problems of security. It is interesting to note that these three municipalities are situated in Serbia.

Specific problems relating to refugees/IDPs and returnees (based on an analysis of the completed questionnaires received)

As far as specific problems of the refugees and internally displaced persons are concerned, the two most important problems they normally encounter are unemployment and housing. Twenty municipalities referred to both of them as the biggest problems refugees and IDPs have to face.

Eleven municipalities referred to the problems encountered by refugees (and sometimes even IDPs, as in Bosnia for example) with regard to their pension rights. Seven municipalities acknowledged problems of the lack of access to public services in neighbourhoods where building work has taken place without planning permission, and three municipalities referred to other problems.

Two municipalities (Sabac and Uzice) referred to security-related problems62. While in the case of Sabac these would appear to relate to the problem of obtaining citizenship and identity cards and other documents, in the case of Uzice, in all probability, these are primarily problems relating to returnees wishing to return to their place of origin, rather than problems of refugees and/or IDPs wishing to integrate locally63.

As far as returnees are concerned, the lack of housing and employment are the two biggest problems encountered in the process of re-integration into their place of origin. In a limited number of cases, reference was also made to the lack of security and lack of access to social and health services.

Unfortunately, as far as the description of the measures to facilitate the integration of refugees and IDPs rather than returnees is concerned the replies generally do not provide full information on all issues nor do they describe the measures in detail. It is however clear that the majority of these measures concern integration and the improvement of relations with the local community/consultation and/or political participation of the representatives of refugees and displaced persons (eight municipalities answered along those lines). In most cases, such measures relate to free advice and guidance services (legal assistance, information on returns etc).

Ten municipalities referred to measures aimed at facilitating access to housing64, six of them trying to address problems affecting the most vulnerable groups of the population. Four municipalities reported problems in access to employment and one referred to measures aimed at the prevention of discrimination and the promotion of dialogue between communities and harmonious co-existence. Very few municipalities referred to access to social/health services and access to school education, (in most cases the answer was that the refugees and IDPs had the same rights as other citizens).

As far as resources are concerned, many measures still seem to be financed and delivered through donations from international organisations and international and local NGOs65. There are some exceptions such as measures (ie access to social/health services and access to school education) generally provided by government resources66. In very few cases (the municipalities of Nis and Sid in Serbia) there is a reference to some local resources for housing. However, as already mentioned, the replies to the questionnaire do not describe the measures in question in any great detail.

V International and national initiatives

This critical moment in the process of returns (and in the related process of the local integration of those who do not wish to return) unfortunately coincides with a large reduction in humanitarian assistance. The emergency and humanitarian assistance offered by many international and non-governmental relief agencies has come to an end in most of the countries in question and this trend is expected to continue in the coming years as the countries/region stabilise and naturally move from relief to development needs.

Unfortunately decreasing funds coincide with a growing interest among refugees and IDPs for return. In some countries, there is a risk that this decrease in specific resources for returns will jeopardise the chances of achieving major results. As a result of the reduction in donations, the number of returns in 2003 in Bosnia and Herzegovina was (it would appear) the lowest since the signature of the Dayton Peace Agreement67.

However, this does not mean that all support from international donors will shortly come to an end. The general trend is a decline of humanitarian assistance in favour of overall measures to promote the economic recovery of society as a whole; this will include refugees, IDPs and returnees as beneficiaries in related development programmes and investment schemes. On the other hand, the promotion of development and economic opportunities will eventually facilitate the return and integration process as well as overall regional co-operation and inter-community dialogue and harmonious co-existence.

The above trend is not necessarily negative for refugees and IDPs. On the contrary, linking the refugee and IDPs issue to social and economic reconstruction may provide new opportunities to pursue lasting solutions for them. Many problems encountered by refugees and IDPs are common to the whole of society and should be addressed in a broader context. In other terms, sustainability may be achieved only through the full inclusion of returnees as well as refugees and IDPs wishing to be integrated in the economic and social life of the local community. Refugees are a vulnerable group often in danger of being left out of the economic revitalisation process. Hence, conditions have to be created to enable them to participate fully in an overall development process.

This change of international strategy towards the region and towards the refugee issue does not preclude any of the solutions open to refugees: returns or local integration. The general well-being of each individual country offers even more opportunities to “choose” a lasting solution for every single situation. In addition, some measures (such as training) may be useful if a person eventually returns or integrates locally.

In any event, the key to continued sustainability is to ensure that a continuum is maintained and that there is no gap within this transition process that will leave the countries/populations without any support.

This is the kind of approach followed by the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe. Within the Pact great efforts have been made to try to reconcile the “typically” humanitarian approach developed within Working Table I of the Pact with the range of other initiatives (such as economic development initiatives falling under Working Table II) that contribute to the long-term solution of displacement.

In particular, under The Regional Return Initiative for Refugees and Displaced Persons mentioned above, the so-called Agenda for Regional Action (AREA) on displacement and refugee issues was drawn up in 2001. This Agenda is an attempt to identify a comprehensive strategy for three countries where the necessary conditions for massive returns have been created (Croatia - Bosnia and Herzegovina – Serbia and Montenegro) by identifying activities to be undertaken by all those involved in refugee issues (international organisations, governments, NGOs, etc). It is based on a consensus among the interested parties on certain key issues to be addressed through national, bilateral and regional instruments. However, the Agenda is viewed as a flexible strategy for a two-three year period to be reviewed and updated frequently. Both the Agenda and the consequent catalogue of measures called AREA II that was drawn up in the first half of 2002 focus on the sustainability of returns; this can take place only if there is full inclusion of both returnees and locally integrated people in the economic and social recovery process.

As part of the above-mentioned initiatives (as well as within the European Union Stabilisation and Association Process that is supported financially through the CARDS Programme - Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation), national authorities are assuming increasing responsibility for the resolution of displacement matters. In other words, the solution of the problem of refugees and IDPs has become the primary duty and obligation of the national authorities of the states in the region. With every passing day it is becoming more and more urgent for national authorities at all levels – State, entity and municipal – to act coherently and with determination to implement the necessary reforms to achieve results in post-conflict integration and normalisation. At the beginning of February 2003, the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina unanimously adopted the “National Strategy for implementation of Annex VII of the Dayton Peace Agreement”, the very first document on this issue drawn up at state level in Bosnia since the end of the war. The Strategy comprises a set of legislative and organisational measures, in particular related to the issues of employment, education, health, pensions and social benefits. The National Strategy set as an objective the finalisation of the returns process by the end of 2006.

In accordance with this National strategy, the role of local and regional authorities will become increasingly more important in the next few years. Central government will be responsible, in addition to overall co-ordination of return and reintegration activities, only for returns from abroad. In contrast, responsibility for the implementation of return programmes will fall entirely to the entities68, cantons and municipalities, with a strong emphasis on the latter level of government.

Another example of a long-term comprehensive and multisectoral national programme of measures that addresses the problems of refugees and IDPs is a “National Strategy for resolving the Problems of Refugees, Expellees and Displaced Persons”, drawn up by the Government of Serbia, in co-operation with UNHCR, OCHA and UNDP. The National Strategy contains both legislative and institutional reforms as well as a set of concrete projects. The key point of this long-term strategy is to leave refugees and IDPs free to take decisions about their future by choosing either return or local integration.

Unfortunately, at the moment, Montenegro does not seem to have any long-term strategy. Moreover, after having been very open in the matter of enabling refugees or IDPs to enter Montenegro during the hostilities, the government of Montenegro has recently adopted certain measures which would appear to prevent the full local integration of those not wishing to return. After many years of permanence in Montenegro, these displaced persons are still uncertain about their future.

The government of Croatia has also drawn up its national action plan. Joint working groups with the most important international stakeholders have been set up to co-ordinate reconstruction activities.

In general, states in the region are now becoming aware that they must find alternative resources for financing returns. International donations may not represent the only source of financing for these purposes. National public budgets should also include allocations (public expenditure lines) to cater for the integration needs of refugees/returnees/IDPs in order to implement national strategies effectively. In addition, these actions may be supported through bank credits. International development players (eg World Bank, EBRD, CEB, etc). should assist countries in the region in these efforts69.

In any event, the examples of the Agenda on Regional Action and the development of national planning and budgeting also seem to be helping to define a new role for international organisations. After having played a very active role in the solution of problems of refugees and IDPs for almost a decade, they should gradually shift their attention to the definition of medium and long-term strategies and to assistance to the national, regional and local authorities in dealing with the problem in order to help reach a successful solution to this problem in South-Eastern Europe.

VI The role of local and regional authorities : some “good practices”

Some of the measures that facilitate the process of integration necessarily involve measures taken at national level. Among other things, such measures should include: a simplified process of obtaining citizenship; encouragement of dual citizenship; the guarantee of non-discriminatory access to employment (including the right to work in public companies), social services and education; the granting of the right to vote for local political bodies, the granting of security and full enjoyment of property rights and others, such as the transfer of pensions and other allowances, etc.

A typical government measure is also the framing of housing policies that enable “social” categories to satisfy appropriately their housing needs. A partnership between central government and local authorities could be particularly useful in this context.

A good example of the development of housing programmes is to be found in the preparatory work on the bill on “socially-stimulated housing construction” in Croatia, both through the allocation of the necessary budgetary resources and through the mobilisation of local and international capital market resources for housing issues. In addition, the Ministry for Public Works, Reconstruction and Construction launched a new project entitled Public Funded Housing Construction (hereinafter the PFHC)70. Following the Socially Directed Housing project which ended in 1991, this is the first organised housing policy in Croatia since that date71.

Before going into further detail on this project, it should be stressed that the PFHC is not a social housing policy project. It should rather be considered as a market-stimulating housing project where, thanks to state participation in housing construction, the conditions for buying an apartment are more favourable than those on the free housing market. The reason for launching this project was that the existing free housing market could not satisfy the housing needs of the majority of Croatian citizens72. Accordingly, the general opinion is that without the participation of the state, through the organised housing policy, construction would not be possible, especially for the younger population who cannot afford to buy a house.

Consequently, since there is no organised housing policy in favour of low-income and vulnerable groups in the current legal framework in Croatia, it should be stressed that the aim of the PFHC programme is to provide certain benefits to socially vulnerable groups in an indirect way. There are two different kinds of potential buyers under this programme: firstly - Croatian citizens themselves and secondly local administrative authorities (municipalities, cities). The Croatian social protection system is decentralised and bearing in mind that local administrative authorities are potential owners, they are able to set up housing funds that may also be used for social needs under the more favourable conditions guaranteed by the PFHC programme73.

Buyers under this programme are not obliged to own another immovable property as security for fulfilment of the payment obligation (mortgage).

According to recent estimates, the current housing deficit in Serbia is around 100-150,000 residential units. Under the aforementioned National Strategy for Resolving the Problems of Refugees and Displaced Persons, there are two main forms of intervention in the field of housing.

The first is geared towards fostering an environment enabling the beneficiaries of this programme to purchase newly constructed houses under more favourable conditions than those on the free market. As in the above-mentioned case in Croatia, this is not a social programme but rather a market-oriented one with state participation in housing construction; the beneficiaries of this programme are able to acquire ownership of the apartments in question74. A secondary effect of this project is to give input to the housing construction sector which has been facing a deep crisis over the last decade.

The main weakness of this project which could jeopardise successful completion is that the necessary finances have to be available in order to be able to offer a low interest rate. Bearing in mind the already difficult budgetary situation of the country, this project will clearly require financial support from international donors.

The Council of Europe Development Bank could play an important role in supporting programmes of this type. All countries of the region should join the Bank and make use of its possibilities75. Local authorities should be especially encouraged to use the facilities provided by the Bank.

The second Government proposal contained in this strategy paper is the construction of social apartments. These apartments would be state-owned apartments used for the accommodation of persons with social needs (vulnerable groups). Following the “solidarity flats”, this is the first new example of state intervention for vulnerable groups.

The state’s main priority is a low final construction cost (which often means that the housing will be built in town suburbs, usually not well equipped with social facilities). Insofar as this is a programme for vulnerable groups, the fact that the housing is to be built in areas with fewer amenities is something of a limiting factor.

In any event, most countries in the region need technical assistance at national level in order to develop policy strategies and finance mechanisms. At the same time, at municipality level, capacity-building measures for the implementation of housing programmes, the development of financial procedures and the organisation of related infrastructure are strongly required. Recently, a housing upgrading and rehabilitation programme was put forward for selected municipalities in Montenegro.

Economic development

As mentioned above, economic development is one of the most important issues for solving the problem of the displacement of populations in South-Eastern Europe. In particular the issue of local economic development may have a highly positive impact for the reintegration of returnees and/or local integration of refugees and internally displaced persons.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina a number of local economic development initiatives have been taken in the last few years. These initiatives, supported by important international funding are all at different stages, but some of them have already had an impact on the local communities concerned.

The institution of “one-stop shops” for business registration and advice, the establishment of the Industrial Park for Foreign Direct Investments in Brcko District76, the setting up of Business Incubators in Gradacac and Mostar77 and a municipal revolving credit line in Zenica-Doboj Canton for SMEs and housing construction are just some of the most important initiatives financed by the European Commission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition to these measures, the Commission has supported other local development initiatives that could have an important direct and indirect impact on the refugee issue, for example in the Sarajevo Economic Region, the Upper Drina Valley and Tuzla Canton. Apart from their economic importance these initiatives have also helped bring together different ethnic groups to work across entity borders to address the economic and social issues in their communities. Tentative efforts to encourage municipalities across the Inter-Entity Boundary Line (IEBL) to work together to resolve their common problems and challenges are under way in many fields. For instance, the Council of Europe is promoting a training initiative by the Association of Cities of Austria, together with the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Associations of Cities and Municipalities. The project, carried out in the Sarajevo region, brings together municipalities from both sides of the Inter-Entity Boundary Line and focuses on developing the skills and knowledge of mayors and senior local government officials to enhance their capacity to manage their localities. Economic forums aimed at addressing sensitive issues such as job creation for returnees have been established under this and some of the other initiatives mentioned above.

Other “good practices”

Many other measures are to be taken at local level and in close co-operation with municipal authorities. Due to strong migration pressure, many local and regional authorities may face problems in guaranteeing some basic public services in some sectors such as education (overcrowded classrooms and shortages of teachers) and public health. Some infrastructure revitalisation and community development programmes in the above and other specific fields should be promoted both through macro development programmes and finely-targeted small decentralised local co-operation projects.

The German Government is co-financing a one million euro water and sanitation project in Podgorica (Montenegro). The aim of the project is to connect about 3,000 refugee and IDP households to the municipal water and sanitation system. Many other international agencies (USAID, the Swiss Development Cooperation - SDC and the International Development Agency - SIDA) are also committed to infrastructure revitalisation and municipality development or social welfare projects in the area. An interesting capacity-building project that should be mentioned deals with the integrated support to primary health care services in Kraljevo Municipality (chosen because of its large IDP population). This three-year trans-national project, supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Red Crescent Societies and the World Bank includes financial, managerial and technical assistance to the municipality. It also includes partial funding of variable costs such as essential drugs and consumables, assistance in developing improved service delivery, sustainable funding systems and technical support from international experts such as the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Last but not the least, UN/UNDP is currently developing a Regional Recovery Programme in Srebrenica78.

In all cases, however, these initiatives require a certain level of commitment on the part of local authorities with regard to their own budgetary resources. The project of the German Government in Podgorica mentioned above is also co-financed out of the municipal budget.

Case Study - Prijedor79

In order to better illustrate the complexity of the above problems affecting local authorities in South-East Europe, we shall look more closely at the situation of Prijedor municipality in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The municipality of Prijedor is situated in the very north-west of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is the second largest municipality of the Republika Srpska. According to the 1991 population census in Former Yugoslavia, the Municipality of Prijedor had about 112,000 inhabitants. 43.98% declared themselves as Bosnian Muslims (hereinafter referred to as Bosniaks), 32.4% as Serbs and 5.6% as Croats. The remaining population declared themselves as Yugoslavs (5.2%) and others.

Following the outbreak of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, almost 40% of the original domicile population, mostly of non-Serb origin, left the city, as result of a large “ethnic cleansing” campaign80.

In contrast, the city took in a large number of refugees and IDPs of Serbian origin, who had escaped from Croatia and from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the end of the conflict in 1995 they represented almost 40% of the population of Prijedor.

In any event, due not only to strong international pressure but also to the efforts of the new local administration, in the last few years a massive return of its pre-war population has occurred in Prijedor. In October 200281, Prijedor was home to some 23,000 returnees and 16,000 refugees and IDPs. According to local estimates at least 6,000 refugees and IDPs were willing to integrate locally. As already mentioned, unlike many other local leaders who tried to obstruct the return process once the war ended (mostly through administrative barriers but sometimes also through open threats to returnees), the local administration of Prijedor firmly supported the process of return, in spite of very limited resources. In point of fact, under Republika Srpska legislation, the municipalities’ competences in matter of return are defined by the Law on Local Self-Government, but no financial assistance is provided to support returnees. Consequently, the municipality introduced into the local budget a specific budgetary line for “support for return”. As a result, many problems affecting the everyday life of returnees such as education, welfare, and economic needs have been addressed and solved.

The municipality has been supported in its efforts by strong international involvement. International organisations, such as UNHCR82, have been co-ordinating the work of several NGOs committed to reconstruction projects in this area. These initiatives have included housing and infrastructure reconstruction, agriculture, education, income generation and the rehabilitation of a market place and communal facilities in Prijedor. In particular, some 5,500 houses have been rebuilt in the Prijedor municipality so far.

Nevertheless, not all energies have been directed towards “material” reconstruction. Some of the specific UNHCR initiatives83 have also been aimed at the full reintegration of returnees and the promotion of co-existence among the various groups. These initiatives have not only created a physical environment conducive to returns but have also developed a context in which community relationships can be rebuilt. They have created a forum for dialogue, fully applying the principles of non-discriminatory treatment between all stakeholders, ie the local community, government officials, NGOs and the beneficiaries. The municipal leadership has been actively involved in the promotion of confidence building and interethnic dialogue.

As a consequence of all this, important results in returns have been achieved. The security environment has been fully guaranteed84. Many religious buildings85 and community facilities have also been rebuilt. A school with children from the Bosniak ethnic majority has been fully integrated into the education system of Republika Srpska.

However, many problems still remain to be solved and it will not be easy for local forces alone to find a solution. Most problems are closely related to issues of economic (under)development.

Following the massive return of its pre-war citizens some new areas of the city have been created, mostly by those who wish to integrate locally rather than return to their places of origin. However, these areas are lacking in the necessary infrastructure (roads) to connect them to the city centre, and access to public services remains difficult.

Furthermore, there is a serious problem of unemployment due to the depressed economic situation86. In addition, according to the aforementioned Amendments to the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, some IDPs and refugees may ultimately lose their jobs to returnees in order to ensure the full implementation of the constitutional principle of equality.

The municipal leadership has tried to play an active role in resolving these problems as well. A conference on “Two way returns” involving nine municipalities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been organized. The municipality of Prijedor was also among the promoters of a regional North-West Development Centre involving eighteen municipalities from both entities. A steady policy to support the development of small and medium sized enterprises was also organised by local authorities. According to local statistics, 55 limited liability companies were founded by returnees in 2001 and 82 by the end of September 200287.

Some of the above initiatives (including the development of the small and medium-sized business sector) have been supported by the World Bank and the European Commission.

VII Proposals for the future and conclusions

The phenomena of a still large number of refugees and IDPs in the area of South-Eastern Europe requires a comprehensive multi-sectoral approach and integrated programmes together with an overall development strategy for the region. There is still a lot to be done to make returns sustainable throughout the region.

In the final analysis, any improvement to the situation depends primarily on the reinforcement and revitalization of the economy and a concurrent effort by all of the population involved in the reconciliation process. Nevertheless neither solving social problems, nor reviving the economy can be achieved without the rule of law, the de-politicisation of the administration at all levels of government and the strict implementation of existing legislation. This goal can be achieved only on the basis of full respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the returnees and the local population alike through the revision and implementation of legislation as part of an overall strategy for the stability and development of the countries in question.

The governments of these countries, in close cooperation with the local and regional authorities concerned, should do their utmost to ensure the reintegration of returnees in the original places of residence, by establishing the conditions for permanent return, including the essential conditions for security.

On the other hand, with regard to refugees and/or displaced persons in their present places of residence, non-discriminatory access to social and other rights for such persons should be secured, in particular by removing any administrative obstacles.

Co-operation between the governments of the area is essential if all these major threats are to be successfully addressed88. Such co-operation should be based primarily on an exchange of information, on finding a solution to some fundamental problems (such as the transfer of pensions and allowances in the particular case of the elderly and the vulnerable) and dissemination of good practices. As far as macropolicies are concerned, the possibility of dual citizenship is recommended at least in the medium to long term89.

The granting of citizenship facilitates the local integration of those who decide not to return. On the other hand, it should not affect the rights of the persons in their country of origin. According to the new Law on Citizenship of Serbia and Montenegro, in addition to a simplification of the procedure for the acquisition of Serbia and Montenegro citizenship, a grace period is provided in order to allow refugees to benefit from integration programmes in the process of acquisition of property or support for the construction of their homes. In any event, the issue of citizenship should not have any negative effects on the restitution of property to the legitimate owners. Appropriate legislation should be adopted in this respect if necessary.


In addition to the process of property repossession, there is still a need for the reconstruction of many housing units that have been completely destroyed or heavily damaged. However, reconstruction should primarily benefit those who wish and are able to return. Assistance with building material may be a valid alternative.

In addition, the current situation urgently needs an adequate response for refugees through an organised housing policy. The states of the region should develop a general housing strategy aimed at the creation of new housing funds with flats at an affordable cost for their citizens. The housing sector should be supported by an affordable loan policy by domestic banks and encouraged by a favourable tax policy. A special savings fund for housing with different interest rates should be set up and promoted, especially for those wishing to acquire their first house. It is necessary to define different categories and different tax rates for residential houses and houses in urban and rural areas according to their position and purposes, including the crucial issue of ensuring that individual families have access to credit mechanisms.

In particular the countries in question should make serious efforts to build new social housing units for vulnerable groups, including refugees. The organised concept of social housing should be properly developed as an effective response to the housing needs of the low-income population as well as of refugees and displaced persons who have opted for local integration. To achieve this aim, policy measures as well as institutional and legislative reform have to be undertaken. Incentives to local communities for the construction of infrastructure and social housing units as well as specific laws and tax benefits for refugees should be secured. Private businesses (primarily the financial sector) and potential investors should be involved in order to enhance private-public co-operation.

As mentioned above, local authorities in South-Eastern Europe should be encouraged to use the facilities provided by the Council of Europe Development Bank. Information seminars in these countries in order to publicise the financing mechanisms offered by the Bank (as the Council of Europe’s social policy instrument) should be organised.

Since housing co-operatives play an important role in solving the housing question, this mechanism should be developed as an affordable alternative to current market prices in this field. The activities of the co-operatives, if successfully implemented, could serve a community interest - reduction of homelessness - and individual interests, thereby satisfying the basic housing needs of these sections of the population.

Economic Development

The economic revitalisation of South-East Europe is essential in order to create the appropriate conditions for a sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced persons.

Existing income should be used to generate activities for all vulnerable groups – among refugees and the local population. However, humanitarian income generation projects are sufficient only to ensure immediate and basic survival income to returnees/refugees for a short period of time and are thus suitable as first-help measures. No assistance programme can replace the establishment of a solid economy and a developed labour market with sufficient opportunities for all.

This can only be achieved by attracting further development aid and, in particular, by creating the necessary conditions for attracting foreign and domestic private investments, in order to rebuild and revive the economy. The creation of new jobs, including through the promotion and development of certain specific sectors such as agricultural processing and tourism, and the creation of industrial and technological parks are strongly needed throughout the region.

In addition, financial, institutional and educational support in developing SMEs, including institutional support through the setting up of a network of centres at local level to provide advice and other services to refugees establishing businesses, should be arranged. Such measures could offer refugees assistance in the creation of new or expansion of existing SMEs through training and the provision of microcredits, grants and in-kind donations.

A worthwhile approach for addressing this highly complex issue of economic development should be the introduction of the European Union model for Regional Economic Development and the use of a “pre-structural fund” approach in each of the countries of South-Eastern Europe. There is a need to consolidate some of the aforementioned Local Economic Development Initiatives and expand them from the bottom up into Regional Economic Development Initiatives with economic regions, regional development agencies and projects funds. This should also be viewed with an eye to the association of the region with an enlarged European Union.

In other words, the European Commission should support the introduction of a Regional Development Framework which is in line with the EU model of Regional Development established in order to reduce the economic disparities between different regions by supporting the least developed and poorer regions through the so-called Structural Funds. The institution of regional development agencies (RDA) which could help define the strategy and priorities of the economic region and oversee the spending of funds, is an essential part of such an aim90.

The recent extension of the INTERREG III programme91 to the countries of the region could represent the very first step in that direction. Some other recent initiatives aimed at developing transfrontier co-operation among local authorities in South-Eastern Europe – such as the creation of a Euroregion “Sofia-Nis-Skopje” and “Drina-Sava-Majevica” – also represent an important step in that process.


Unemployment rates among refugees are much higher than among the local population. Hence, new self-employment and employment initiatives should be created through access to “soft” loans (including agricultural credits), reduction of tax obligations and initial support for the establishment of SMEs as well as incentives to additional vocational training. However, these programmes should be aimed at refugees, employers and local communities. There must also be a guarantee of non-discrimination as regards employment. In some areas, instances of discrimination against ethnic minorities in favour of ethnic majority populations have been reported. Local authorities should be encouraged to employ returnees at all levels of public administration, local public bodies and the police92. Where possible employment according to the pre-war population census should be secured93.

In any event, the development of decentralised co-operation programmes can play an important role in assuring transparency in the employment process. Some local NGOs have suggested that the same positive approach should be followed by foreign investors.

Other measures

A number of other measures to strengthen law enforcement are still required, particularly in the area of non-discriminatory access to social rights such as health care, pensions, education or the unimpeded provision of utilities (water, electricity, telephone, gas). These services should be ensured for both returnees and people wishing to integrate locally. In view of the problems faced by municipalities in providing returnees or refugees and IDPs with practical assistance and access to social rights (health, education) the national authorities should guarantee them the necessary resources.

In addition, the promotion of reconciliation and tolerance should be encouraged through dialogue and inter-ethnic co-operation programmes, in particular in the field of culture and education and at local (municipal) and regional levels. However, in the long term inter-ethnic integration may and should occur also through economic development.

Last but not the least, some measures such as food supply and community development (useful in helping IDPs overcome a sense of isolation), supported by international donors, will still be required for a certain period of time for some of the most vulnerable groups among the displaced beneficiaries.

Some (possible) practical steps

The above measures should contain a short or medium-term strategy. As a general rule, the measures for local integration and continuation of efforts to promote repatriation should be concurrent and co-ordinated. The local population (with particular reference to socially disadvantaged groups) should also benefit from integration projects in order to avoid major social tensions. For example, many programmes may be drawn up and aimed at both refugees and local communities. In addition to policy measures, some concrete projects should also be identified and submitted for international funding.

The necessary prerequisite for any future action is to understand the exact number of those that wish to return and those who wish to integrate locally. This is important both in developing strategies and in implementing concrete projects94.

The first step should be to get a better social and economic profile of the refugees in collective centres95. Individually targeted solutions for those housed in collective centres, who have developed a strong dependency syndrome, require strong links with social sectors (both social housing and social institutions). For example, some collective centres could be converted into temporary or permanent regional social welfare institutions, such as homes for the elderly (many of them have, in fact, already been transformed into de-facto homes for the elderly), institutions for the disabled and orphanages that would also be available to the local population. Additional arrangements for their support should be organised within the overall development of the social sector and supported by some specific projects. Other collective centres could be transformed into housing blocks of publicly-owned apartments. Without tailor-made individual solutions that require the continuing support of both domestic institutions and international donors this tragic chapter of the war cannot come to an acceptable conclusion96.

The second priority should be practical assistance to local authorities where there are many refugees and IDPs wishing to integrate locally. Some areas that offer considerable economic potential could be attractive for return and local integration. Mention may also be made of some urban centres that offer significant economic potential and, in addition, a solid social and welfare system. Under the Stability Pact Regional Return Initiative some priority areas have already been identified or suggested for a comprehensive approach ranging from social housing to education and health systems as well as support to economic development. There is still an urgent need to provide energy, manage water and waste in rural and urban areas, and analyse needs and the available competences in the development of public services.

The first area identified, for both its political dimension and economic potential, is the Sava river basin. The area includes regions of Eastern Slavonia in Croatia (with the cities of Osijek, Vukovar etc), Vojvodina region in Serbia and Montenegro (Novi-Sad) and the northern regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina (with the cities of Tuzla, Banja-Luka, Brcko etc).

The second suggested area is on the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the Sisak-Bihac-Prijedor triangle (with possible extension to the Knin area of Croatia and Canton 10 territory in Bosnia), an area that has also been seriously affected by the war.

As far as Serbia and Montenegro is concerned, the Southern Serbian regions around Kraljevo might also be given priority in receiving comprehensive action in this field. However, many other areas may also be suitable for such a comprehensive approach, based on both humanitarian and economic considerations.

Finally, the particularly difficult position of some ethnic groups should be taken into special consideration. Among the displaced population, the Roma population seems to be more affected than any other group due to the weak position they occupy in society97. The living conditions of the Roma refugees and IDPs are generally extremely poor. They mainly live in illegal settlements or unrecognised collective centres, without access to electricity, drinking water or sewage systems. Some municipalities are reluctant to accept them and provide little or no assistance, consequently they depend on NGOs and international relief. Specific programmes to provide support for this group should be devised and implemented, including those fostering their access to training and employment opportunities.

All measures for the above groups could be developed not only at macro level but also through local development initiatives. The implementation of development initiatives at municipality level is the best way to ensure the sustainability of solutions for refugees and IDPs.

Generally, citizens turn to local government to resolve more than 80% of their daily concerns. Although the degree of self-government enjoyed by local authorities varies considerably between the individual countries, responsibility for active policies for vulnerable groups falls primarily to the local authorities in South-Eastern Europe too. However, local authorities in the area are often not well equipped to provide the necessary services to users (and especially to most vulnerable among them – including not only refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees but also other socially endangered local populations). Hence they should be assisted in their efforts through financial support and transfer of know-how98 by their international counterparts.

Many donors and international agencies have already focused their programmes – with positive results – on specific municipalities. Strengthening existing arrangements and developing new twin relationships between donors from European municipalities and those from the region - as well as other decentralised forms of co-operation may be particularly useful in developing local abilities to manage refugee/immigration problems99.

The network of Local Democracy Agencies, promoted by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, has played an important role in the past ten years in promoting local democracy, trans-border and regional co-operation, intercultural dialogue, respect for human rights and local economic development in the countries of South-East Europe. The methods of the LDAs are based on partnerships between municipalities in the area and other European cities and NGOs.

Last but not least, some of these partnerships may be geared to the transfer of experiences and “know-how” in the integration of vulnerable groups (including refugees under the Geneva Convention) by local and regional authorities that are authorised - in some European countries – to promote activities in the reception, integration and voluntary repatriation of asylum seekers and refugees100.

The efforts to be made are still enormous but quite apart from humanitarian considerations they may also represent an investment for the future. Resolving problems of refugees is the best way to strengthen stability in the region and to avoid turbulence on the borders of the European Union.

Most of the countries of the region are deeply committed to trying to make up for time lost in their process of association with the European Union and all of them are expected to be host countries for asylum-seekers and refugees from other areas of the world in the near future101. In contrast, if economic recovery fails, most of the citizens of the region will probably turn of their own accord to illegal immigration in third countries.

The process of European integration with regard to the countries in the region102 may play a very important role in resolving the mass displacement issue in South-Eastern Europe. The two key obstacles to a permanent solution to the problem of refugees and IDPs still remain the lack of national political will on the part of some of the governments of the region to fully implement return and the lack of financial resources – particularly for reconstruction but also for development/economic recovery purposes, and in this respect the role of the European Union may be a crucial one. Political pressure regarding the minimum human rights standards required, respect of which is necessary for obtaining the status of candidate countries, may be useful in ensuring that some of the governments in the area make genuine efforts. On the other hand, the European Commission’s financial instruments (including the pre-structural and structural funds mentioned above) will be vital in the near future for the economic and social recovery of the countries of the region.

The Congress
of Local and Regional Authorities

Council of Europe
F – 67075 Strasbourg Cedex
Tel : +33 (0)3 88 41 20 00
Fax : +33 (0)3 88 41 27 51/ 37 47













(*) Indicate the type of local or regional authority with a cross.












(*) Indicate the country with a cross.











Unemployment (%) (*)


long-term (%) (*)


Per capita income (Euros) (*)


Poverty line (Euros) (*)


Population below the poverty line (%) (*)


(*) Optional information. For information regarding the data concerning your country, please see the Human Development Report 2002 website : http://hdr.undp.org/reports/global/2002/en




% of total number of employed people in 1991

% of total number of employed people in 2002




Industry (if so, what sectors)






Other (please specify)


(*) Indicate the activities with a cross (you may choose more than one reply).








Poverty/difficulty in promoting economic development




Housing shortage


Inability of the municipality or region to supply social/health services




Other (please specify)


(*) Indicate the problem with a cross (you may choose more than one reply).









□ Yes □ No

Mark with a cross. IF ONLY RETURNEES ARE PRESENT (ie persons who left the territory following the war in former Yugoslavia in June 1991 and returned to their places of origin after the cessation of hostilities), PROCEED TO SECTION C ON PAGE 8.


(official data or estimates, date of last census)


Eg: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, etc.



(families, collective centres )









Freedom of movement/other security problems


Lack of employment


Lack of housing


Unable to draw a pension


Lack of access to local public services in neighbourhoods where building has taken place without planning permission




(*) Indicate the main problems encountered in order of priority, beginning with the figure 1.


□ Yes □ No


(official data or estimates, date of last census)



Eg: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, etc.











Social integration/improvement of relations with the local community/consultation and/or political participation of the representatives of refugees and/or displaced persons (1)


Prevention of discrimination and promotion of dialogue between communities and harmonious co-existence (2)


Special problems affecting the most vulnerable categories:
Elderly people
People with disabilities


Security of the refugees and/or displaced persons (3)


Access to housing (4)


Access to employment (5)


Access to social/health services and the pension scheme (6)


Access to the school education system (7)


Other (please specify) :


(*) Indicate the measures taken in order of priority, beginning with the figure 1.

(1) For example: existence of a permanent consultation forum for refugees and/or displaced persons or less formal consultation arrangements.

(2) For example: in the administrative field, the application of laws and regulations, the implementation of judgments and administrative decisions, etc.

(3) For example: active role of the IPTF or other forms of international protection.

(4) For example: allocation of social housing, access to loans for buying or building a home.

(5) For example: do refugees and/or displaced persons have access to employment on the same footing as other citizens? Does this also apply to public sector jobs?

(6) For example: do refugees and/or displaced persons have the same access to public health services as other citizens? Or are health services provided for them by international bodies?

(7) For example: do refugees and/or displaced persons have the same access to the state school education system as other citizens or is schooling organised within the collective centres, for instance?



FUNDING Local/regional funds (1) and (4)

FUNDING National government funds (2) and (4)

International funds/schemes (3) and (4)


(1) State whether there are local or regional non-governmental organisations committed to promoting the integration or return of refugees and/or displaced persons.
(2) Specify how.
(3) Specify the body from which the funds come, for example: World Bank, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, international non-governmental organisations, etc.

(4) State whether the measures financed with local/regional, national or international funds must be part of a broader local, regional, national or international strategy on behalf of refugees and/or displaced persons, such as the Serbian Government’s “National Strategy to address solutions for refugees”, Annex VII to the 1995 Dayton Agreements, decisions of the Commission on Real Property Claims, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999, etc.



□ Yes □ No

Mark with a cross.


(official data or estimates, date of last census)


Eg: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, etc.












Lack of housing/difficulty in reclaiming their property/impossibility of obtaining a loan to rebuild their home


Freedom of movement/other security problems


Lack of employment


Lack of access to social and health services


Inability to draw a pension


Other (please specify)


(*) Indicate the main problems encountered in order of priority, beginning with the figure 1.








Facilitating the use of their own language


Social rehabilitation/improvement of relations with other communities/consultation and/or political participation of the returnees’ representatives (1)


Prevention of discrimination/ promotion of dialogue between communities and harmonious co-existence (2)


Special problems affecting the most vulnerable categories:
Elderly people
People with disabilities


Security of the returnees (3)


Access to housing (4)


Access to employment (5)


Access to social/health services and the pension scheme (6)


Access to the school education system (7)


Other (please specify)


(*) Indicate the main problems encountered in order or priority, beginning with the figure 1.

(1) For example: existence of a permanent consultation forum for returnees or less formal consultation arrangements.

(2) For example: the application of laws and regulations, the implementation of judgments and administrative decisions; the organisation of meetings and talks on returning in the current context (which entails a return in two directions); rebuilding churches and mosques destroyed during the last conflict; building or rebuilding schools in districts where minorities live.

(3) For example: active role of the IPTF or other forms of international protection.

(4) For example: allocation of social housing; return of property; allocation of alternative housing; access to loans to buy or build/rebuild a home.

(5) For example: do returnees have the same access to employment as other citizens? Does this also apply to public sector jobs?

(6) For example: do returnees have the same access to public health services as other citizens? Or are health services provided for them by international bodies?

(7) For example: do returnees have the same access to the state school education system as other citizens, or is schooling organised, for instance, in suitable classes catering for returnees alone?



FUNDING Local/regional funds (1) and (4)

FUNDING National government funds (2) and (4)

International funds/schemes (3) and (4)


(1) State whether there are local or regional non-governmental organisations committed to facilitating the situation of returnees.
(2) Specify how.
(3) Specify the body providing the funds, for instance: World Bank, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, international non-governmental organisations, etc.
(4) State whether the measures financed with local/regional, national or international funds must be part of a broader local, regional, national or international strategy in favour of returnees, for example the Serbian Government’s “National Strategy to address solutions for refugees”, Annex VII to the 1995 Dayton Agreements, decisions of the Commission on Real Property and Claims, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999, etc.

1 Neighbouring countries usually hosted refugees belonging to an ethnic group that reflected their own majority population.

2 Source: UNHCR

3 Idem

4 The percentage of refugees/IDPs varies between the different entities of BiH - over 85% of refugees (all of them are refugees from Croatia) and over 55% of IDPs live in the Republika Srpska (including Brcko District) while refugees from Serbia and Montenegro (ie. Kosovo) live in the Federation of BiH.

5 The main influx occurred in 1995 when some 190,000 people fled from Croatia and around 80,000 from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those massive arrivals were the direct consequence of military actions in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

6 UNHCR, Refugee Registration in Serbia 2001.

7 More than 200,000 IDPs, mostly ethnic Serbs, fled the province in that period.

8 According to official data of the Government of Montenegro (Commission for Displaced Persons of Montenegro, 1999 census) immediately after the Kosovo crisis in 1999, there was a total of 28,338 refugees and 30,289 internally displaced persons in Montenegro. However, the most recent data confirmed a slow decrease of the number of displaced persons in comparison to the total population. According to the UNHCR statistics in November 2003 there were some 18,044 IDPs and 13,399 refugees in Montenegro.

9 To make the situation even more tragic some of the refugees who found asylum in Kosovo after the start of the war in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina had to move again after the beginning of the hostilities in Kosovo in 1999. Some 15,000 ethnic Serb refugees had to move once again and find shelter elsewhere.

10 Source: UNHCR

11 In Montenegro 53% of all collective centres were unofficial in 2002 (compared to 14% in Serbia). As far as the collective centres of Montenegro are concerned the situation in March 2002 was as follows: 2,820 IDPs were hosted in 32 official collective centres under a contractual agreement with the Commission for Displaced Persons of the Government of Montenegro, while 1,791 of them were based in 50 unofficial centres. In addition, some 4,056 persons were accommodated in family houses or in wooden barracks (Government of Montenegro, Commission for Displaced Persons of Montenegro, Report on Refugees and Displaced Persons, March 2002).

12 At present there are no figures available for 2003.

13 Since the end of the conflict in Bosnia (1995) and until July 2003 there have been 419,711 minority returns. In general, according to UNHCR, as of 31 July 2003, a total number of 963,655 refugees and displaced persons have returned to their pre-war homes in Bosnia and Herzegovina (in particular 434,699 refugees and 528,956 internally displaced persons had returned by that date). These data refer solely to registered returnees. The total number of returns is probably even higher.

14 Other sources, such as the Croatian Ministry for Public Works and Reconstruction, reported that a total of 70,432 displaced persons had returned, comprising 32,111 Croatian displaced persons and 38,321 minority returnees (these figures relate to 2000, 2001 and 2002).

15 The December 2002 incident near Konjic in Bosnia (in which a family of ethnic Bosnian Croat returnees was murdered in their home), and frequent incidents in Kosovo may be a cause for concern for many who are still undecided whether or not to return.

16 On the premise that if the refugees did not return, their property would remain in the possession of those currently occupying it.

17 In the meantime, a number of very promising signs are emerging following some minority returns, especially to certain rural areas. These are usually closely monitored and supported by international players (for example, returns to the village of Podvorice, financed by the German Government).

18 In Croatia alone (considered to be one of the most heavily mined countries in the world), there are still an estimated 400,000 to 1,000,000 mines. According to experts, efforts to demine the country will require at least ten years.

19 This result is highly successful, bearing in mind that the most recent statistics show that some 194,000 out of a total number of 224,263 applications for the restitution of property have so far been submitted in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

20 An estimated 50,000 – 60,000 tenants are thought to have lost their tenancy rights in Croatia.

21 Official Gazette of the Republic of Croatia, No.68/03.

22 Owners are given two options: the first is a settlement agreement with a lump-sum payment; the second involves a fixed-rate monthly payment from 1 November 2002 until the physical repossession of the property by the rightful owners. The Croatian Government announced that some of the money for this compensation payment would come from a Council of Europe Development Bank loan.

23 Speech of Mirsad Kebo, Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the meeting of the High Level Working Group for humanitarian co-operation, Geneva 24 September 2003.

24 However, according to some international organisations, this is an argument that Croatia has used repeatedly to transfer responsibility to the international community and to explain why returns are so slow whereas in fact, this slow pace is a result, first and foremost, of the administrative obstacles put in place rather than the lack of reconstruction assistance. According to these organisations, it would presumably be easier to obtain international financial aid if the authorities displayed real and effective commitment to promoting returns.

25 In Croatia 2.7 percent of the total population is in receipt of social benefits. However, this percentage ranges from 1.5 percent in the most developed areas in Northern Croatia up to 12.2 percent in the most depressed provinces affected by the refugee crisis (Knin). Statistical Data of Social Care Beneficiaries, ed. Ministry of Social Care, 31 December 2002.

26 More details about this programme will be provided below.

27 Official Gazette of the Federation of BiH No.36/99

28 Official Gazette of the Republika Srpska, No.11/00.

29 According to this law, the financial means obtained through privatisation of the state-owned apartments could be used for responding to the housing needs of citizens. The legislation stipulates specified that 20 percent of the available financial funds should be used for granting loans for the housing needs of certain vulnerable groups, such as: soldiers and military war invalids and family households, refugees, displaced persons, persons in receipt of material assistance, persons whose houses or apartments have been destroyed in the course of the war activities.

30 Official Gazette of Montenegro, No. 45/90.

31 Official Gazette of Montenegro, No.45/93, 16/95 and 44/2001

32 The legislation designates the local administrative units (municipalities) as the authority responsible for providing housing solutions for those groups.

33 There is another way in which the housing needs of socially vulnerable groups can be satisfied at municipal level. The municipality may use the Municipal Housing Fund, where one exists, to help certain social categories of the population. In such cases, the housing needs are assessed by the competent municipal organs. Apart from the above, at present there is no organised housing policy nor organised action aimed at vulnerable groups in order to satisfy their housing needs in Montenegro.

34 According to some recent research in 2000, over a third of the Serbian population (36.5%) is considered poor, with an income that is on average less than US$30 per month; of these 18.2% live in absolute poverty with an average income of less than US$20 per month, Poverty in Serbia and Reform of Governmental Assistance for the Poor, Ed. Centre for Liberal Democratic Studies, Belgrade 2002.

35 With the result that he or she will leave once again.

36 However, it must also be said that in some cases there are examples of positive discrimination in favour of returnees. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to the “Decision on the constitutionality of all three ethnic groups on the whole territory of the State”, returnees have a right to employment in accordance with the pre-war population census.

37 In the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina this situation also derives from relations between entities (Federation of BiH and the Republika Srpska), for example, agreements in the health and education fields have not been implemented.

38 Others were students, pensioners and dependent persons (Source: “National Strategy for Resolving the Problems of Refugees, Expellees and Displaced Persons”).

39 Report “Situation of refugees and internally displaced persons in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia” presented to the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography by Rapporteur Mr Boris Cilevics.

40 The Agenda for Regional Action was drawn up under the Regional Return Initiative for Refugees and Displaced persons of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe.

41 Agenda for regional action.

42 Speech by the Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mirsad Kebo, at the High level working group on humanitarian co-operation, Geneva 24/09/2003

43 The refugee population is concentrated primarily in three areas in Serbia: approximately half of the total number are based in Vojvodina, some 30% in the area of Belgrade and the remaining part in central Serbia. The territory of the northern province of Vojvodina is the preferred solution because this is an agricultural area, compatible with the refugees’ rural profile. In addition, Vojvodina has had a very negative trend of rural depopulation in the past two decades; for this reason the local authorities were also more receptive and open to the new population. The second place where refugees are accommodated is the larger urban areas and this preference is closely linked to the expectations of the refugee population to gain more economic opportunities.

44 The total number of refugees from Croatia in Serbia in the meantime has been reduced. In October 2003 there were 189,472 refugees from Croatia.

45 Government of Montenegro, Commission for Displaced Persons of Montenegro, Report on Refugees and Displaced Persons, March 2002.

46 In 2003 there was increasing interest in return, especially to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

47 On the other hand, it is important that the local integration of individuals does not prevent the return of others on account of the unlawful occupation of third party properties.

48 Nis, Sremska Mitrovica, Sid, Uzice, Novi Sad, Loznica, Ruma, Zemun, Zajecar, Smederevo, Stara Pazova, Valjevo, Nova Crnja, Kragujevac, Apatin, Vranje, Zrenjanin, Sabac. However all these municipalities are in Serbia, and so far no questionnaire from Montenegro has been returned.

49 Petrinja, Topusko, Hrvatska Kostajnica, Rijeka, Lipovljani.

50 Bratunac.

51 However, the municipality of Centar – Skopje wrote that it had serious problems relating to the presence of refugees and IDPs on its territory.

52 Those relating to the presence of refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees on municipal territory.

53 Petrinja did not answer.

54 Some municipalities did not report the number of people living in collective centres.

55 There were never any organised “ethnic cleansing” campaigns in Serbia (excluding Kosovo) and Montenegro. Consequently, the municipalities of Serbia and Montenegro are not faced with a huge problem of persons wishing to return to their territory (“returnees”). It is probable, therefore, that their answers to the third part of the questionnaire refer to the Serbian refugees who intend to return to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

56 As mentioned above, some municipalities such as Apatin, Kragujevac, Nova Crnja and Vranje correctly understood what the questionnaire was getting at.

57 With the exception of those that did not quote the number of unemployed.

58 3,219 inhabitants and 9.9% unemployed.

59 4,101 inhabitants and 7.39 % unemployed.

60 With the exception of the municipalities that did not answer that part of the questionnaire.

61 However among the four municipalities, one referred to economic development and employment issues as well.

62 Here too, both municipalities are located in Serbia.

63 See note 55.

64 Without specifying major details about these housing measures.

65 This information clearly shows that the need for international assistance is still crucial for the long-term solution of the refugee problem in South-Eastern Europe.

66 Some replies refer to the existence of government resources in the field of housing. These are a probable reference to certain programmes that will be described below.

67 Speech of Mirsad Kebo, Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the meeting of High Level Working Group for humanitarian co-operation, Geneva 24 September 2003.

68 This level of government will be fully responsible for the collective centres and for property restitution.

69 In this respect the importance of the membership of all the states in the region of the Council of Europe Development Bank should be stressed.

70 Official Gazette of the Republic of Croatia. No. 109/01 of 11 December 2001.

71 With the exception of the specific state programme for the construction of housing for war veterans.

72 Housing construction in Croatia has fallen significantly from 12,000 housing units per year before 1990 to 1,000 housing units per year today. Of course, the recent war in Croatia is one of the reasons explaining this trend but the difficult economic conditions facing Croatian citizens and their consequent inability to afford to enter the housing market cannot be disregarded.

73 It is particularly important to point out that local administrative units are not obliged to separate all amounts for housing under the municipal fiscal year which is the usual practice. In this particular case, the municipalities are entitled to buy the new apartments by putting down a deposit and subsequently paying in instalments.

74 The basic provisions of this project are similar to those of the PFHC programme in Croatia.

75 The Council of Europe Development Bank (CEDB) is already implementing some loan programmes in Croatia. The Bank has provided a loan of €40 million to the Government of Croatia for the “Housing Care Programme”. Additional loans of around €60-70 million are planned for Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina (provided the latter two accede to the CEB first). UN/UNDP is currently developing a Regional Recovery Programme in Srebrenica.

76 The Industrial park will be a site for 30 Italian investors.

77 This initiative has provided support for over 60 SMEs.

78 After having invested, for obvious political and moral reasons, in the return of ethnic Bosniaks to Srebrenica and its surroundings, the international community is likely to see its efforts fail for a series of practical problems that affect returnees. As of March 2003 around 1,200 returnees had returned to Srebrenica. However, the conditions for sustainable return were not in place. During the winter, people living in remote villages risk being cut off and experiencing serious difficulties in food provision. The problem of unemployment is dramatic (only 13 returnees of ethnic Bosniak origin were employed at that time in local administration). In addition a number of unresolved issues relating to mutual health protection between the health system of the Federation and that of the Republika Srpska remain, and this obliges returnees to seek medical care in their previous place of residence in the Federation of BiH, 150 to 200 km away. Most returnees have recently threatened to return en masse to their former place of asylum.

79 The facts reported in this document are based on a statement from Ms Nada Sevo, given in the course of the Round Table on returns held in Strasbourg in October 2002 and on the facts obtained directly by the author at the 4th Forum of Cities and Regions of South-East Europe held in Prijedor in September 2003.

80 Almost 43,000 ethnic Bosniaks are estimated to have left the city in that period and almost 4,000 killed during the hostilities at the beginning of the war (Bosnian weekly DANI, 8 March 2002).

81 The date of the hearing of Ms. Nada Sevo, Mayor of Prijedor, at Strasbourg, October 2002.

82 In partnership with the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

83 Complemented by the efforts of other agencies.

84 An important measure in assuring confidence and safety was the involvement of representatives of returnees in the joint meetings of the International Police Task Force - IPTF and local police officials

85 Six mosques have been rebuilt since the end of the war (October 2002).

86 Unofficially, the unemployment rate is 55% (Bosnian weekly DANI, 8 March 2002).

87 Hearing of Ms Nada Sevo, Mayor of Prijedor.

88 The recent co-operation in this field among the states of the region is an encouraging step in that direction.

89 Serbia and Montenegro and Croatia already allow for the possibility of dual citizenship and a recent Decision of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina extended for ten years the period in which, under Bosnian law, bilateral agreements with foreign countries in this matter may be concluded.

90 Of course, if we look at the situation in the countries of South-Eastern Europe from a regional economic development perspective we can see that there is much to be done to introduce this EU model. At the moment there are no real economic regions as the European Union defines them, no regional development strategies, no well established regional development agencies nor the necessary project funds.

91 The INTERREG programme promotes cross-border, trans-national and inter-regional cooperation, ie the creation of partnerships across borders to encourage the balanced development of multi-regional areas which border EU member states. In particular, the Transadriatic Interreg Programme launched in Sarajevo in April 2003 promotes cross-border co-operation between Italy and Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro and Albania.

92 The employment of minorities in police forces and judicial services has a highly positive impact on the confidence-building process and security in general.

93 As provided in Bosnia and Herzegovina according to the “Decision on the constitutionality of all three ethnic groups on the whole territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

94 In July 2003 the Minister for Refugees and Human Rights of Bosnia and Herzegovina M. Kebo and the Minister for Public Works of the Republic of Croatia R. Cacic agreed to form a Joint Commission to ascertain the real number of refugees who wish to return to their own country.

95 In point of fact, the main focus in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro since 2003 and for this year is geared towards finding a permanent solution for those living in collective centres.

96 In the last few years, substantial efforts have been made to find lasting solutions for those refugees and displaced persons living in collective centres throughout the region since the end of the war. As a result of these efforts (carried out in particular by certain international organisations such as UNHCR), in Bosnia and Herzegovina alone the number of people who continue to live in these deplorable conditions has fallen from 45,000 in 1995 to just over 2,000 today.

97 When analysing the position of the Roma population the reason for their particular vulnerability and social exclusion probably derives on the one hand from the absence of any reliable census data regarding this population and on the other, from the lack of information on the rights and services available to them.

98 Through training strategies for elected representatives and staff of local and regional authorities as well as strategies for local democracy development.

99 However, all programs should be developed as part of an overall international strategy (such as the Stability Pact Regional Return Initiative).

100 In this respect, the experience of Italy – the one best known to the author – is particularly important. The new Italian Law on Immigration (Law 189/2002) has devolved responsibilities for the reception and integration of (certain) asylum-seekers and refugees from central government to local authorities. Under the law, all municipalities that have “active” services for asylum-seekers and refugees may have access to financial support (up to 80% of the expenses thedy meet in financing those services), ie to the so-called National Fund for Asylum Policies and Services. It should also be noted that this Fund is in part financed by European funds (through the European Refugee Fund). In accordance with this system, criteria and standards are established at national level while at local level there is considerable autonomy in addressing practical needs.

101 And subsequently, they will be asked to fully comply with the obligations originating from the 1951 Geneva Convention on the protection of refugees and asylum-seekers and its additional Protocols.

102 The EU Association and Stabilisation Process.