TRIP REPORT 2002-2 - 23-29 MAY 2002

Property law implementation continues to increase in all areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina,and there is much talk in some municipalities of finishing the process by the end of 2002.  In order to do this, there is an increasing emphasis on the need for alternative accommodation and the return of DPs and refugees to their places of origin as the two main focal points.  Because of the fact that there are less funds for reconstruction and return, the international community and local authorities are focusing on the need to be more efficient and to provide local solutions to their problems.  Local leaders cannot wait for funds that might come in or depend on higher levels to take action.  Local mediation demonstrates that when authorities, the international community and returnees sit down with each other and discuss problems,  creative solutions can be found.  However, part of the problem is a lack of proper communication, transparency and respect for the rule of law.

The Mediator's visit sought to address these issues in Banja Luka, Canton 10, Drvar, Glamoc, Grahovo, Ilijas, Livno, Vogosca and Zvornik.  In Zvornik, the second visit by the Mediator, the meeting centred on the fulfilment of previously agreed conclusions.  While the municipality has made some steps forward there seems to be a problem with communication both between the municipal and RS authorities and between the local government and the returnee communities.  However, there is no doubt that the municipality is moving forward.  The issue of religious freedom was resolved through mutual agreement and commitments were made to resolve outstanding issues.  On the one hand, much is asked of the local authorities who are often overwhelmed with the amount of work and are also sometimes hindered by a lack of action by other institutions, such as the public defender or the RS MRDP. On the other hand, the municipal authorities need to be more efficient, provide more information to their citizens and allocate more local resources.  The security situation and the investigation of criminal acts are of special concern, but UN Civil Affairs is working on this issue with the police chief.

Given that the return of DPs is one of the keys to opening up housing stock for repossession and alternative accommodation, the Mediator held a trilateral mayors meeting with the mayors of Ilijas, Vogosca and Zvornik.  In this case, the municipalities have increased their cooperation significantly and are working together on common problems.  However, their efforts to visit DP communities and make appeals for returnees still have to be improved.  Again, the issue of alternative accommodation is of concern and each municipality, despite some efforts, needs to do a lot more.  One concrete example is that the minimum standard in BaH of one eviction per day per inspector and three decisions issued per day per lawyer must be achieved and maintained.

The visit to Canton 10 was much more controversial because the situation is very confusing and unstable.  There are some security concerns in the three municipalities with Serb mayors, and the relations between these municipalities and the Croat dominated cantonal government are very poor at best. Specifically, the canton is plagued by confusion surrounding the financial arrangements between municipalities and the canton.  This is further compounded by an apparent lack of respect for democratic principles.  The one positive factor is that despite the problems, returns are continuing even to municipalities that have severe economic conditions.  This is of special importance because for three years Serb return to Canton 10 was unlikely or under very difficult circumstances.  The issue of Serb returns to the Federation and to Croatia is a topic that is receiving more attention and will have to be dealt with if property law implementation is to be completed.  In this framework, the Mediator held a trilateral mayors meeting with the mayors of Drvar, Glamoc and Grahovo, which resulted in an invitation for future mediation to help improve relations between Croats and Serbs in their municipalities and with the cantonal government.

Of special concern is the Serb return to Croatia which still seems to be hampered by the perception in the Serb refugee population that if they return, they will face discrimination and unbearable conditions.  The Mediator has promised on previous occasions to take up this issue in Croatia and on this trip the issue was once again brought up in Banja Luka by the mayor, whose municipality host 11,000 Croatian Serb refugees, and by Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic.

Trip Report 2002-2 - 23-29 May 2002
(WORD, 232KB)