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					                      -The Regional Return Initiative-

                        Notes on Tri-lateral Consultation
                                  Zagreb, 29 May 2001

1. On invitation of the chairman of the Steering Committee on Refugee Matters, Mr.
   Hans Koschnick, representatives in-charge of refugee issues from the Republic of
   Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, met in the
   premises of the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Zagreb as a follow up to the
   first meeting held on 23 February in Bonn.

2. The meeting was attended by:

3. Hans Koschnick             Chairman of the Steering Committee
4. Werner Blatter             Co-Chairman of the Steering Committee, UNHCR
5. Julija Pezer               Executive Assistant to the Chairman
6. Kilian Kleinschmidt        Executive Secretary to the Steering Committee
7. Mario Nenadic              Asst. Minister, Ministry for Human Rights & Refu, BiH
8. Petar Ladjevic             Advisor for Refugee Issues, President's Office, FRY
9. Sanda Raskovic-Ivic        Commissioner for Refugees, Serbia/FRY
10. Vladimir Curguz           Embassy of the FRY in Croatia
11. Lovre Pejkovic            Head of ODPR, Croatia
12. Zjelko Kupresak           Stability Pact Coordinator, Croatia
13. Boris Belanic             First Secretary, Bilateral Relations, MFA Croatia
14. Tomislav Thuer            Head of Office, SP, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Croatia

15. This second consultation aimed at updating the participants on developments and
    activities since the last meeting and to discuss and agree on further steps in the
    coming months. Particularly the status of bilateral contacts and negotiations was to be
    discussed and the “Agenda for Regional Action” (AREA) to be finalized

16. The three countries provided a detailed update on activities, progress and remaining

   Croatia described in detail the new measures for the “Areas of Special State Concern”
   adopted during the thematic session of the Government of the Republic of Croatia
   held in Knin on 29 March 2001. Legislation on Reconstruction, Areas of Special
   State Concern and Status of Refugees and DPs had been adjusted and therefore most
   obstacles been removed according to the Croatian representative. Remaining legal
   issues would now be addressed by a legal expert group, comprising experts from
   Government, International organizations such as UNHCR and OSCE, as well as
   donors (EC, US) which would be convened in the coming 2 weeks for the first time.

17. The Croatian Government had re-iterated it’s commitment to the right of return of all
    its citizens during the session in Knin and wished to complete the process of
    repossession of property by the end of 2002 and the reconstruction and return
    program by the end of 2003. This ambitious goal could, however, only be achieved
    with adequate resources being available. The Government had engaged considerable
    budgetary resources, which it had sought to complement with loans obtained from
    IFI’s such as the CEB and Croatian Commercial Banks, but important gaps would
    still need to be filled. A total of 35.000 units still required reconstruction and repairs
    and some additional 250 million-DM would be necessary to cover these
    reconstruction needs at this point. A combination of reconstruction, construction
    (alternative accommodation/social housing) purchase and rent of available housing
    space would be needed, but all works should ideally begin within the next 12 months.
    Of importance was to note that all applications for reconstruction had to be received
    before 31 December 2001. (FRY noted that for this purpose refugees had to obtain
    better access to the application forms and that some procedural issues had to be
    clarified most urgently). 5 million-DM had been reserved by Croatia for return to
    Northern BiH and discussions with the Bosnian government were underway how to
    proceed in the implementation of this program.

18. The social measures, recently initiated for destitute populations, including returnees,
    in the war affected areas, the reconstruction activities and resulting business
    development or investment would hopefully improve the sustainability of returns. In
    addition there would be financial returns to the state budget through tax payments by
    the companies involved, thus facilitating the financing of the whole program. The
    Croatian representative conceded, however, that problems with the local
    administration persisted, now also due to the delays in forming new local
    governments, following the local elections, but he was confident that those could be
    gradually overcome.

19. Bosnia-Herzegovina stated that the progress in return to and within the country was
    too slow, although overall figures were comparatively high with some 20,000 mostly
    ”minority” returns in the first 5 months of the year, representing an important increase
    in regard to the same period in 2000. But absolute figures of exiled Bosnians were
    still very high with some 600,000 people abroad (not all with a refugee status).
    Property repossession was in progress with 23% of repossessed objects so far, but RS
    statistics were not satisfactory as yet with only 15 % (32% Federation) recovered

   properties. The entities had budgeted 60 million-DM for refugee return programs in
   the budgetary year 2000, but overall financial gaps remained very important. BiH
   welcomed the Croatian return program for the Posavina as an important contribution
   to the return process.

20. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia provided an update on the re-registration
    exercise conducted in Serbia in March/ April with first results showing that some
    470,000 refugees remained in the country (65,000 already having received FRY
    citizenship). The survey conducted simultaneously to obtain information on the return
    intentions of the refugees, indicated that 4% of the Croatian refugees intended to
    immediately return to Croatia and 7% of the Bosnian refugees to Bosnia. Some 32%
    remained undecided or gave no answer, while over 60% opted for local integration.
    While security concerns remained an issue for some, most opting for integration felt
    that their return would be hampered by slow reconstruction, no place to live and no
    employment and education opportunities.

21. Organized return to Croatia had remained slow with only few of the return
    applications (approx. 3000 in the year 2000) resulting in actual returns; most returns
    remaining self-organized and spontaneous. Efforts by Croatia and BiH to improve
    return conditions and property repossession were most appreciated, but close
    cooperation would certainly help further improve the process. Property rights and
    accommodation upon return for formerly urban populations, having mostly lived in
    socially owned apartments, remained to be resolved.

22. Payment of pension entitlements was an important issue for the refugees and
    solutions, possibly through arrangements between banks, should be envisaged, to
    avoid the need for refugees to travel (to Croatia) to collect their payments.

23. The local settlement in FRY of several hundred thousand refugees posed a serious
    burden to a country with 30% of inflation 28% of unemployment and a very low
    PNB. A study commissioned by the Serbian Commissioner estimated the total
    requirement to cover additional housing and social welfare needs over the next 10
    years to be in the range of 2.4 billion US$ to achieve a long term solution. To address
    the most destitute a program for housing, employment, small business and education
    for 7,000 families, including Collective Center residents, for an amount of 266 m US$
    had been devised and would be presented shortly. Financing would initially need to
    be covered by the national budget with international support; a portion being provided
    to the beneficiaries on a loan basis. Similar to the program in Croatia, housing needs
    would be covered through a combination of loans, construction, rehabilitation of
    publicly owned buildings and purchase of objects.

24. Recent new arrivals from Republika Srpska raised concern over the consequences of
    the implementation of the Property Legislation Implementation Plan (PLIP) in Bosnia
    with some 200 evicted families having opted to leave for Serbia instead of returning
    to the Federation. Also of concern was the regulation in the Bosnian Federation that

   repossessed apartments had to be occupied for 2 years before the property could be
   exchanged or sold.

25. The issue of agreements between the three countries was discussed repeatedly. In
    view of the opinion of Croatia that tri-lateral agreements or declarations were not
    acceptable or necessary and had no added value, the need for concluding or revising
    bi-lateral agreements in regard to return or other issues of concern to refugees was
    discussed and agreed upon. The validity and importance of tri-lateral consultations
    was recognized and not questioned by all participants.

26. Between FRY and Croatia the existing 1996 Normalization Agreement and Return
    Protocol needed to be revived and possibly be adjusted. It was recommended that bi-
    lateral discussions on this question would take place in the forthcoming meeting
    between the Foreign Ministers of both countries. This should of course also result in
    operative implementation. Data on returnees had recently been shared by Croatia with
    FRY revealing an important number of returnees having migrated back to FRY.

27. Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina had met repeatedly since the last meeting in Bonn
    and a comprehensive bi-lateral return agreement was in it’s final stages of
    preparation. This agreement would probably supercede a number of agreements
    concluded over the last 5 years, such as the return protocol with the RS. Data and
    return applications had been exchanged as well. The importance to include the
    protection of rights of all persons having left Bosnia, independently of their status
    was stressed.

28. Bosnia-Herzegovina and FRY agreed to begin concrete discussions on formalizing a
    return agreement, based on recent joint declarations by both Foreign Ministers, which
    included refugee matters, as well as in relation to other bi-lateral agreements under
    discussion. Communication had already improved and further steps would be taken.

29. Both, the Chairman and UNHCR, stressed the importance and usefulness to enter into
    tripartite agreements; i.e. the country of origin, the country of asylum and UNHCR to
    facilitate the accelerated return as foreseen in the “Agenda for Regional Action”.
    UNHCR stated that the mechanism of such tripartite agreements/memoranda was
    most successfully used in various major repatriation operations in other parts of the
    world and that the donor community was not only fully familiar with the mechanism,
    but always strongly supported such a tripartite approach; this mainly because
    international standards in terms of returns were been guaranteed and UNHCR's
    involvement was also a guarantee that the return issue was always kept at the
    humanitarian and apolitical level.

30. The Agenda for Regional Action (AREA) was discussed and besides minor
    corrections and changes, the three countries had no objection to the content. In order
    to provide additional substance, it was agreed to develop national action plans and
    provide regular progress reports, which would become entire part of the document.
    AREA would gain in remaining a “living”, evolving document providing measurable

   indicators and ensuring transparency. The national action plans would be provided
   before the next meeting of the Regional Table of the Stability Pact on 28 June and
   first progress reports be submitted before the Regional (funding) Conference end of

31. Additionally it was agreed that the AREA would, once adopted at the Steering
    Committee meeting in Paris on 11 June, be publicly launched and presented on the 27
    June in Brussels, one day prior to the Regional Table meeting. A high level
    attendance of the Steering Committee members, particularly from the 3 concerned
    countries, preferably on the ministerial level, would set the right – and long expected
    – signal that a solution to the refugee problem is now in sight through strong regional
    and international cooperation.



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