Brussels, 24 April 2013
Western Balkans: first projects for housing solutions approved as the Regional Housing Programme celebrates its first anniversary
Some 460 refugee families from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia will soon be able to improve their living conditions thanks to housing projects launched as part of the Western Balkans Regional Housing Programme. The first four projects under the Programme were approved recently. These amount to a total value of EUR 8.7 million, out of which EUR 7.1 million will be financed by the RHP Fund. The housing solutions available include construction of apartment buildings, pre-fabricated houses and provision of building materials for the renovation of existing houses.
This flagship initiative of the Sarajevo process demonstrates the renewed commitment from the four countries to put an end to the protracted refugee situation from the 1991-1995 conflicts in the region. In total, some 74,000 vulnerable persons will benefit as agreed last year at the International Donors' Conference in Sarajevo. The programme, to be implemented directly by the four partner countries, brings together donors and international stakeholders, including the European Union, Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB), UNHCR, OSCE and the United States.
"The Regional Housing Programme is a good example how we can deal in a sustainable way with difficult issues related to refugees and displacement. I am very pleased the construction and rehabilitation of the first houses will now start and that the first families will soon be able to move into their new and better homes", said European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle.
Rolf Wenzel, Governor of the Council of Europe Development Bank, which is managing the Regional Housing Programme, said: “Getting close to the first results of the Regional Housing Programme, we are continuing in even greater strides to help the countries secure decent housing conditions for those populations most in need.”
Anne C. Richard, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration said, “We are very pleased to support the Regional Housing Program. It is helping to bring a painful chapter of history to a close by resolving long-standing refugee and displacement issues in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. This program is a landmark achievement for diplomacy and brings hope for a better future to many in the region.”
Lamberto Zannier, OSCE Secretary General, said: “This housing programme is an excellent example of countries in the region and the international community working together to give some of the most vulnerable people a roof over their heads. This is what we are aiming to achieve wherever we are, helping people rebuild their lives.”
''The international community has shown solidarity and commitment to support the four partner countries in their courageous decision to put the past behind them and focus on the needs of the most vulnerable. This support needs to continue, to help all those who are still displaced to find a viable, dignified and durable solution”, said António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Regional Housing Programme was set up to offer sustainable housing for 74,000 vulnerable individuals with refugee status following the armed conflicts in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The programme is to be implemented over five years with the support of the international community led by the European Union. The entire Programme, financed by a multi-donor fund, is estimated to cost about EUR 580 million. The European Union is the largest donor having pledged EUR 234 million, with over EUR 100 million contributed by the end of this year.
A website dedicated to the Regional Housing Programme will be available as of 24 April. It will be administered by the Programme's manager, CEB.