UN welcomes Balkans refugee plan
The UN refugee agency Tuesday welcomed a joint Balkans move to help some 200,000 refugees from the wars that ravaged ex-Yugoslavia, saying it could boost the four countries' efforts to join the EU.
The foreign ministers of Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro and Croatia on Monday agreed measures to address the refugees' most pressing problems, notably finding permanent homes for the 74,000 still living in temporary housing.
The UN agency said Tuesday that if fulfilled the programme will support the four countries' accession to the European Union.
"UNHCR welcomes this declaration. It has come about through intense efforts by the four countries, and is a firm commitment on the part of their respective governments to cooperate at regional and national level in dealing with an enduring problem for this part of Europe," the agency said in a statement.
The organisation said a Work Plan to be developed as part of the programme would allow refugees to enjoy their full rights and resume normal lives.
"UNHCR believes the fulfilment of these commitments will also support the accession of these countries to the European Union," the body said.
"We will remain engaged and strongly committed to supporting the governments of these four countries in closing this refugee displacement chapter."
More than 15 years after the 1991-95 conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia, more than 200,000 refugees are still registered throughout the Balkans.
Serbia's Vuk Jeremic and his counterparts from Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro -- Sven Alkalaj, Goran Jandrokovic and Milan Rocan -- signed a declaration at a conference in Belgrade also attended by UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres.
The four countries hope to raise some 580 million euros ($800 million) at a donor conference early next year to fund a regional programme.
"Our governments have agreed on a joint regional programme for the coming years in order to ensure durable solutions for the refugees and displaced persons who are the most vulnerable," the ministers of Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro said in the declaration issued Monday.
Each of the four countries have applied or are in the process of applying to become a member of the EU.
© 2011 AFP