wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03ZAGREB1474
2003-06-27 07:01:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Zagreb
Cable title:  

GOC APPROVES HOUSING MEASURES AIMED AT

Tags:   PREL  PREF  PGOV  ECON  HR  BK 
pdf how-to read a cable
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L  ZAGREB 001474 

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/27/2013
TAGS: PREL PREF PGOV ECON HR BK
SUBJECT: GOC APPROVES HOUSING MEASURES AIMED AT
FACILITATING REFUGEE RETURNS

REF: A. (A) STATE 96439


B. (B) ZAGREB 1084

Classified By: Darren Taylor, Political Officer, For Reasons: 1.5 (B) a
nd (D).
SUMMARY
-------

C O N F I D E N T I A L ZAGREB 001474

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/27/2013
TAGS: PREL PREF PGOV ECON HR BK
SUBJECT: GOC APPROVES HOUSING MEASURES AIMED AT
FACILITATING REFUGEE RETURNS

REF: A. (A) STATE 96439


B. (B) ZAGREB 1084

Classified By: Darren Taylor, Political Officer, For Reasons: 1.5 (B) a
nd (D).
SUMMARY
--------------


1. (C) In what is being viewed as an abrupt change of policy,
the Croatian Government on June 12 finally approved measures
aimed at providing subsidized housing to refugees who enjoyed
"tenancy rights" under the old Yugoslav system. In another
development, Prime Minister Racan, for the first time,
publicly called for all refugees to return to Croatia. The
GOC,s pursuit of EU membership -- and the EU,s linkage of
progress on return-related issues as a condition for
membership -- is the driving force behind recent GOC actions.
The proof will be in the implementation. Senior GOC
officials, unfortunately, are already declaring the mission
accomplished -- characteristically confusing statements of
intention with implementation. End Summary.

What A Difference A Day Makes
--------------


2. (C) After three years of ignoring, rebuffing and attacking
IC insistence that it address the issue of lost
occupancy/tenancy rights (OTR) affecting the ability of tens
of thousands of refugees to return to Croatia, the SDP-led
coalition Racan government on June 12 dramatically reversed
its previous policy and announced a new initiative to provide
housing assistance to refugees who had enjoyed OTR and who
want to return. The government previously insisted that OTR
had been abolished as a legal instrument in Croatia and
therefore that no effort would be made to offer any special
assistance (never mind compensation) to the tens of thousands
of refugees -- by one estimate, up to 100,000 ethnic Serbs --
who lost OTR when Croatia's law was changed after they had
fled Croatia, often under duress, in the mid-nineties.


3. (C) Following Cabinet approval of the new initiative,
Prime Minister Racan took center stage and publicly welcomed
refugees to return to Croatia during a nationwide television

broadcast. (Racan had rejected making such a public appeal
ever since entering office in early 2000, citing domestic
political considerations.) In this first-ever public,
personal invitation, Racan told the TV audience that, by
adopting the housing program, the GOC had removed a key
political obstacle to EU membership. "Housing is no longer
an obstacle for refugees seeking to return to Croatia,8 he
said.

GOC Highlights Housing Policy
--------------


4. (C) In their public announcements and in a presentation to
the Zagreb diplomatic corps, GOC officials described the new
initiative as an effort to facilitate the return of refugees,
not restore OTR to all individuals and families who lost
them. Under the new housing plan, which the GOC promised to
begin implementing within 30 days, there will be two options
for potential returnees.

-- Subsidized rent of state-owned apartments. Under this
program, returnees would be eligible to receive subsidized
rent (less than one dollar per square meter) for apartments
that will be bought by the State or built through the
state-subsidized housing program.

-- Direct purchase of property. Refugees who are
financially able to pay the down payment (usually 10-30
percent of the actual cost of a home or apartment) will
receive low interest rate loans under the program.


5. (C) GOC officials stressed that only former OTR holders
who seek to return to Croatia and who do not own homes in
Croatia or any of the former Yugoslav republics will be
eligible to participate in the program. The program will
include cities both inside and outside of the war-affected
areas (so-called "Areas of Special State Concern"). The GOC
said it plans to spend USD 70 million toward the effort next
year and complete the reconstruction program by 2006.
Roughly half of this amount will come from the state budget.
Both Deputy PM Linic and Deputy FM Simonovic assured the
Ambassador that funds have been reserved for this program.
The GOC plans to apply for loans from the Council of Europe
Bank to cover the remaining balance.

EU Membership Driving Force Behind GOC Action
--------------


6. (C) The EU,s decision to link Croatia,s progress on
refugee returns to its eventual membership in the EU is


driving the GOC effort. In its March report, the EC
Commission specifically set a benchmark for the GOC: to
develop and implement an acceptable plan to restore OTR for
those who lost such rights after fleeing during the war. The
Commission gave the GOC until the end of the year to show
measurable progress on this and two other key impediments to
return: property restitution and processing applications for
reconstruction assistance. The clear message was that the
GOC must act to enable and facilitate minority returns or
face a negative avis next spring on its EU membership
application. The linkage is the only powerful lever
available to the IC to force the GOC to take what it
considers unpopular and costly steps to facilitate mostly
Serb returns. Early signs are that the GOC is bending under
this EU pressure, which the USG has both spurred and
endorsed.

No Time to Celebrate
--------------


7. (C) The GOC has a history of making promises and not
following through. The Ambassador has underscored that we
will be looking at implementation as the true test of the
government's commitment -- a message he conveyed again to the
Prime Minister on June 26. Whether or not the GOC fully
implements the program just announced will send a clear
signal about its readiness to "clear the hurdle" on refugee
returns. While the GOC appears to have gotten the message
from the EU that resolving refugee returns will weigh heavily
on Croatia,s bid for membership, the same holds true for
NATO membership -- a point which the Croatians need to be
reminded of at every opportunity (Ref).


8. (C) Finally, despite the rather celebratory spirit
displayed by many GOC officials over the recent initiative,
another cloud hangs over Croatia: the case a former tenancy
right holder brought to the European Court of Human Rights in
Strasbourg. Scores of other similar cases loom too. The GOC
could be on the hook to compensate -- at enormous cost -- all
former tenancy rights holders, not just those who return to
Croatia to live. Indeed, the proposed GOC program is not a
final resolution to the issue of OTR. The EU holds that
rulings by the Strasbourg court must be respected -- a
central obligation of any country which aspires to EU
membership. The OSCE is also following these cases closely.

ROSSIN
NNNN