News 24 Apr 12

More Funds Required for Balkan Refugees

Although countries from the region had hoped to obtain more than half billion euros to solve outstanding refugee issues, they came out of a donors’ conference with less than two thirds of that sum.

Denis Dzidic

In a joint effort Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro were hoping to raise the 508 million euros that were necessary to “permanently solve the refugee issue in the Balkans”, at a donors’ conference held in Sarajevo on April 24. In the end, they were only able to obtain around 300 million euros.

The money raised is intended to support the return of refugees and those displaced by the 1990s wars in the region. 

The European Commissioner for Enlargement, Stefan Fule, said that the EU was dedicated to both regional cooperation and to finding housing solutions for refugees, and was proud to report that the EU had pledged 230 million euros for the project.

“We will do everything to make sure that donor assistance will continue, even though all of the money was not collected now. In the next five years we hope it will be,” said Fule, who added that soft loans were another possibility for gathering the remaining amount needed.

Apart from the EU, the other big donors were the United States, which contributed 10 million euros, and Germany, Switzerland, Norway and Italy, each of which gave five million euros.

Damir Ljubic, Bosnia's Minister for Human Rights and Refugees, said that even though the countries had not raised as much as they hoped for from the donor conference, he was “pleased” as this would allow the project to begin.

Bosnia's Minister explained that according to the original outline his country and Croatia were supposed to get almost 100 million euros each.  Montenegro was to receive 25 million euros in the plan, and Serbia around 308 million euros.

The project to build permanent housing for both refugees and internally displaced persons, is supposed to help the Balkans countries assist some 74,000 people.

Organizers of the donor conference explained that Serbia was supposed to receive the largest amount of money because they had the largest number of refugees - some 45,000 persons.

Bosnia and Croatia would get a similar amount as both countries have around 10,000 refugees, while Montenegro would receive the smallest amount for the six thousand refugees and internally displaced persons residing there.

According to the officials, refugees and displaced persons would be allowed to choose between returning to and reintegrating with their place of origin, or integrating with the society where they currently reside.

The project foresees the closure of communal accommodation facilities, as a way to assist reconciliation and cement a durable peace.

The conference was opened by the foreign ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, who pledged their support to solving one of the most complex issues that burdens the region after the bloody conflicts of the early 90's.

Vesna Pusic, the Croatian Foreign affairs minister, said that collecting the necessary funds would ensure “a new dawn” for the region, freeing it of past burdens.

At the closing press conference, it was explained that the amount raised would be enough to start the project and that donor lobbying would continue in an effort to raise the rest of the funds that are needed.



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