Establishing what happened to people who disappeared during the 1990s wars is necessary to create lasting peace in the Balkans, said Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic.
“Shedding light on the fate of more than 12,000 missing persons in the Balkans is an important requirement for stabilisation in all countries of the region that have been affected by the conflict,” Dacic said after meeting representatives of the Red Cross on Tuesday.
The Red Cross said that the Serbian Commission for Missing Persons has made progress in the last few years and that “the government of Serbia has established good cooperation in the region in order to tackle this issue effectively”.
However, it urged the Belgrade authorities and their regional counterparts “to find a mechanism that will speed up the exchange of information among countries”.
According to estimates made by the International Commission on Missing Persons, 40,000 people were missing, presumed dead, at the end of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.
An estimated 30,000 disappeared during the Bosnian war, 6,000 went missing during the war in Croatia, 4,400 during the Kosovo conflict, and 23 disappeared during the 2001 crisis in Macedonia.
Today, around 10,000 victims of the Bosnian war are still missing, 2,000 victims of the Croatian war, 1,700 from the Kosovo conflict and 13 from Macedonia.
Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia agreed in October last year to create a joint database for all missing people in the region.
Serbia already has a joint list with Kosovo, on which missing people are listed in alphabetic order and not on the basis of ethnicity.
Several EU officials have suggested that the issue should be discussed as part of the ongoing Brussels-led Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, but so far it has not been put on the official agenda for the talks.