Cablegate: Little Light at the End of the Tunnel On Tenancy

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


B. ZAGREB 1474


1. On December 1-2 the OSCE Croatia Mission's Return and
Reintegration Unit briefed their field staff, regional OSCE
staff (Belgrade and Sarajevo), and regional UNHCR staff on
the status of implementation of the GOC's plan to address the
issue of lost Occupancy Tenancy Rights (OTR). OTR has been
one of the most important and politically sensitive obstacles
to sustainable return of refugees and IDPs. The GOC long
denied that OTR was even an issue to consider -- then
finally, without consultation with the international
community, the GOC announced a program (reftels) in June for
affected refugees and IDPs to qualify for redress. There has
been no implementation to date, the deadline for applying has
been extended, and the OSCE doubts that anyone will be able
to move into an apartment before 2005. End Summary.

OSCE Training Seminar on Tenancy Rights

2. On June 12, the GOC announced a program that would provide
housing solutions to those refugees and IDPs who -- due to
displacement after independence and during the fighting --
lost their "tenancy rights" enjoyed under the old Yugoslav
system of socially-owned apartments (Ref B). The OSCE and
UNHCR have argued for years with the GOC that OTR is the last
significant obstacle to completing the process of return for
the approximately 185,000 refugees who remain in
Serbia-Montenegro and the 22,000 who remain in
Bosnia-Herzegovina. The OSCE estimates that residents who
lost OTR include 23,700 families of Croatian Serbs from urban
areas of Croatia (that remained always under control of the
GOC), and up to 10,000 families in war-affected areas.

3. In its draft Status Report 13, which is scheduled for
presentation to the permanent council of the OSCE in Vienna
on December 18, the OSCE reports that neither of the GOC's
programs, one for inside war-affected areas -- known as Areas
of Special State Concern (ASSC) after the law of the same
name -- and the other for outside the ASSC, are not yet
operational. The program announced June 12 for areas
outside ASSC included an initial deadline for applications of
December 31, 2003. The international community strongly
implored the GOC to extend the deadline, and eventually it
was, to December 31, 2004. The OSCE and UNHCR believe an
extensive information campaign will be required in order to
inform potential applicants, the majority of which reside in
Serbia-Montenegro. UNHCR will support live talk shows on
national public and private television in Serbia-Montenegro.
However, the GOC's public outreach campaign is not likely to
begin before early spring.

4. Complicating any governmental action at this time is the
fact that the current ruling coalition in Croatia lost in the
parliamentary elections held November 23. It may take weeks
to form a new ruling coalition, and it may be well into
January before Ministers and other higher level authorities
are identified and on the job. Most observers expect Lovre
Pejkovic, Assistant Minister and Head of the Office for
Displaced Persons, Returnees, and Refugees (ODPR) in the
Ministry of Public Works to keep his position in the new
government. However, the OSCE speculates that Pejkovic will
not have a budget for OTR programs before at least March, no
apartments will be built before the end of 2004, and the
first successful applicant for housing will not move into an
apartment before 2005.

5. Axel Jaenicke, the Head of the Return and Reintegration
Unit at the OSCE Mission to Croatia, was pessimistic about
implementation. He repeatedly pointed out that
implementation is dependent solely on the goodwill of the
GOC, because the Government's so-called "Conclusion" and
"Implementation Plan" are decision documents only and do not
carry the weight of law. Potential applicants have no legal
security and cannot seek redress in a court of law. As if
orchestrated to prove Jaenicke's point, in introductory
remarks before the OSCE training seminar, Pejkovic reversed
prior GOC policy and announced that potential applicants who
have a pending court case on a housing matter will at the
same time also be able to apply to ODPR for a housing
solution under an OTR program. Previously the GOC said no

applications would be accepted from those with pending court
cases. Jaenicke said he did not expect the GOC to provide
written confirmation on this change -- an example, in his
critique, of the non-legal basis for the GOC's programs, and
how much they rely on the whim of those currently in power.

Dissatisfaction with the EC Role

6. Jaenicke was surprisingly critical of the EC at various
points throughout the two-day OSCE training seminar. The
invited EC representative showed up late the first day and
stayed only briefly. At least at the working level, there is
tension between the two missions on the issue of tenancy
rights -- in contrast to otherwise cozy relations,
particularly between the two mission heads. The OSCE,
particularly if there is a positive avis out of Brussels next
spring that paves the way for a quicker EU accession, is an
institution on the way out in Croatia. Peter Semneby, the
Head of Mission, expects full funding for the current mandate
in 2004, but states plainly that major downsizing will begin
in 2005. The EC, on the other hand, represents the key to
Croatia's desired future as a normal European state.
Jaenicke went so far as to tell the 80 participants that the
OSCE "does not have a stick here," and it will be up the EC
to monitor implementation and "challenge" the goodwill of the
GOC. However, he suggested that to rely on the EC to monitor
implementation was wishful thinking, because the EC has no
field capacity in Croatia whatsoever.


7. Occupancy Tenancy Rights is a vexing issue with a lot of
gray area. The OSCE's skepticism about the GOC's plan to
address the issue is certainly warranted. Given the GOC's
record of underestimation, slow implementation, and missed
deadlines, it is very likely that there will be little
progress on tenancy rights in 2004. If the number of
applicants exceeds the GOC's stated expectation of 5,000 then
it is also likely that the GOC will not have the capacity to
complete the program by the stated deadline of 2006. We will
continue to work with our local OSCE and EU colleagues, to
press the GOC for action on tenancy rights, and to keep the
issue on the accession agenda.


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