European Commission - Press release
EU supports historic step in regional cooperation between Western Balkan countries on refugees and displaced persons
Brussels, 24 April 2012 –Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia have renewed their commitment, in Sarajevo today, to finding durable solutions for refugees and displaced persons of the 1991-1995 conflict in the region. On this occasion, the international donor community has pledged 261 million in support of the Regional Housing Programme at the International Donors Conference on Durable Solutions for Refugees and Displaced Persons.
The joint Regional Housing Programme aims at ensuring voluntary return and reintegration, or local integration of refugees and displaced persons. It will provide durable and sustainable housing solutions to some 74,000 individuals. The programme demonstrates the countries' renewed commitment to regional cooperation, which yields concrete and positive results for the people in the region. Regional cooperation is a key element of EU's stabilisation and association process for the Western Balkans, and refugee return is one of the pillars in this cooperation. The new impetus for regional cooperation is a clear step forward in the EU integration process of the four countries.
"I very much welcome the renewed commitment to the Sarajevo Process by all participating states. It is a clear sign that the region wishes to leave the past behind, without forgetting it, and move on towards the future as good neighbours. I call upon the international donors to support the region in this important endeavour", said European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle.
The overall EU pledge, about EUR 230 million will reach about half of the necessary amount EUR 501 million for the entire duration of the programme; which is expected to last for five years. This pledge remains subject to the pending decision on the overall EU budget for the period 2014-2020. The other international donors have pledged an amount of EUR 31 million in Sarajevo today.
The Sarajevo Declaration process, initiated in 2005, aims to find long-lasting solutions for refugees and displaced persons following the 1991-1995 conflicts on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. The process involves four countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia (the “Partner Countries”).
The Regional Housing Programme (RHP) is an integral part of the Sarajevo Process. The process was in a stalemate until March 2010, when a ministerial meeting was held in Belgrade which brought together the four Partner Countries, the UNHCR, the EU and the OSCE. At this meeting, the countries committed themselves to work towards solutions of a number of outstanding issues, including data exchange and statistics, pensions and con-validation rights, housing and property issues.
Beneficiary population (according to the Framework Programme of 7 November 2011):
In November 2011, the four Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Partner Countries signed a Joint Declaration bringing to a close the regional aspects of the Sarajevo process - the multilateral claims between the four countries - and committing them to jointly work towards achieving sustainable solutions for the refugees and displaced persons in the region. To that end, a Framework Programme was annexed to the Joint Declaration as a first step towards the establishment of a Regional Housing Programme (RHP). A donors conference was subsequently agreed to take place in Sarajevo, on 24 April 2012, in order to request international donor support for the funding of the RHP.
International organisations with the UNHCR in the lead, the EU, the OSCE as well as the United States have been closely involved in supporting the countries in addressing the issues.
The EU funds for 2012 and 2013 will be made available from pre-accession funds, through the IPA national envelopes for the four Partner Countries as well as from the IPA Multi-Beneficiary allocation. The balance is to be deployed in 2014 onwards and is therefore subject to decisions concerning the next EU financial framework. The funds from IPA national programmes will be earmarked and transferred to separate national accounts or "compartments" within the Regional Housing Programme Fund or Trust Mechanism.
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