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Cablegate: Goc Committed to Providing Housing to Returnees,

VZCZCXRO0944
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #0468 1751137
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231137Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8421
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBW/AMEMBASSY BELGRADE 0006
RUEHLJ/AMEMBASSY LJUBLJANA 6415
RUEHPOD/AMEMBASSY PODGORICA
RUEHPS/AMEMBASSY PRISTINA 0593
RUEHVJ/AMEMBASSY SARAJEVO 0286
RUEHTI/AMEMBASSY TIRANA 0832

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000468

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR PRM, EUR/SCE AND EUR/RPM, BELGRADE FOR REFCOORD
JIKICH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: HR CROATIA PGOV PREF PREL EUC REFUGEES
SUBJECT: GOC COMMITTED TO PROVIDING HOUSING TO RETURNEES,
BUT UNLIKELY TO HIT ITS TARGET DATE OF THE END OF 2009

REF: A. ZAGREB 00411
B. ZAGREB 00357

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Deputy Prime Minister Slobodan Uzelac
continues his active engagement (REFS) to address outstanding
refugee return issues in Croatia. During a June 16th, 2008
meeting between senior representatives of the European
Commission, UNHCR, U.S. Embassy, and the Zagreb based office
of the OSCE, the DPM further outlined the GoC "action plan"
for the accelerated implementation of the housing care
program. In addition to the GoC's (overly) ambitious plan to
solve the cases of approximately 5600 former occupancy
tenancy right holders by the end of 2009, discussions during
the bi-monthly meeting with the international community also
focused on the quality of housing provided to returnees, a
new appellate procedure for housing care applications, and
unresolved property matters. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Uzelac openly acknowledged that, as of early June
2008, the GoC had only actually delivered just under 85
percent of the 1400 returnee apartments it had set as its
target for 2007. The remaining 217 units had been acquired,
but were not yet ready for occupancy. Uzelac assured the
representatives of the international community that the
majority of these 217 units would be ready by the end of
September. Uzelac added that the GoC's draft "Action Plan on
Returns" is currently under discussion with the EU as a
required benchmark for opening a chapter in Croatia's
accession negotiations. Uzelac said the GoC is scheduled to
provide solutions by the end of 2009 to the estimated 5600
additional households of former occupancy tenancy rights
holders who have applied for housing. Given the generally
inconsistent quality of housing provided to returnees, the
GoC committed itself to begin repairs on units that are in
poorer condition.

3. (U) Uzelac noted that the GoC has recently implemented a
new appellate procedure. Staff from the central Ministry
for Reconstruction and UNHCR's Zagreb office are now jointly
reviewing applications originally rejected by the GoC's local
offices. A number of these rejections are likely to be
overturned by the end of October. Those cases in which the
joint review committee upheld the initial rejection will
still have recourse to a further appeals process. GoC
officials noted that cases approved during this appellate
procedure by September will be added to the 2009 plan and
budget accordingly. Meeting participants praised the GoC's
willingness to undertake this review as a sign of political
will to address any injustices caused by unfairly restrictive
decisions at the local level.

4. (U) Uzelac also assured the representatives of the
international community that of an estimated 8,600 pending
requests for housing reconstruction, funds have already been
ear-marked in the government budget for all positive
decisions that will be issued in the months ahead. Uzelac,
who recently traveled to Vojvodina to meet with refugees in
Serbia who have applied for return to Croatia, further stated
his belief that a bilateral approach to negotiations with
Serbia is a logical way to proceed in further promoting
return to Croatia.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: While the "Action Plan" is encouraging and
clearly demonstrates the GoC's willingness to "do the right
thing," the timetables the GoC has outlined for resolving
these cases strike us as overly ambitious. Based on the
GoC's performance over the past eighteen months, we believe
that the GoC does genuinely intend to provide housing to all
approved applicants for return. But it is very unlikely that
Uzelac and the GoC can actually deliver all of the
approximately 5600 units required by the end of 2009. END
COMMENT
Bradtke

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