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Croatia and Bosnia: returns breakthrough?

Briefing notes

Croatia and Bosnia: returns breakthrough?

1 September 2000

Almost five years after the Dayton Peace Agreement put an end to war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we are finally seeing a breakthrough in the implementation of the agreement's most difficult part - the return of refugees and displaced people to their original homes. During the first six months of this year, nearly 20,000 people went back to their pre-war homes in areas controlled by their former enemies, as compared to only 7,700 during the same period last year. Returns rose particularly sharply to Republika Srpska, with more than 7,000 Bosniaks and Croats returning to their pre-war homes during the first six months of this year. More than 700,000 people remain displaced within Bosnia as a result of the 1992-95 war.

There has also been a sharp increase in returns of ethnic Serbs to Croatia since the election of a new government last January. During the first half of this year more than 10,000 Croatian Serbs returned to their homes - almost as many as during all of last year.

Assistant High Commissioner Søren Jessen-Petersen travels to Croatia and Bosnia next week in advance of the meeting in Geneva on September 11 of the Humanitarian Issues Working Group. The HIWG is a twice-yearly gathering of officials from the former Yugoslavia aimed at taking stock of progress in refugee and displaced returns in the region. During his weeklong trip to Croatia and Bosnia, Jessen-Petersen will meet with a string of top national and international officials and take a first-hand look at the progress in minority returns across Bosnia and Croatia. Jessen-Petersen is scheduled to arrive in Croatia's capital, Zagreb, on Sunday. He will visit Serb return areas on Monday and meet with Croatian officials on Tuesday. He will drive to Republika Srpska's main city of Banja Luka Wednesday via Brcko and Bijelina where he will visit minority return areas. He will meet with Milorad Dodik - the Prime Minister of Republika Srpska, one of Bosnia and Herzegovina's two entities. On Thursday, he will visit Bosniak- and Croat-controlled areas near the Herzegovina city of Mostar. On Friday in Sarajevo, he will meet with High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch and the head of Bosnia and Herzegovina's three-man presidency Ejup Ganic.