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Cablegate: Macedonia: New National Action Plan Aims At

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSQ #0621/01 3571613
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231613Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY SKOPJE
TO RUEHBW/AMEMBASSY BELGRADE PRIORITY 0033
RUEHPS/AMEMBASSY PRISTINA PRIORITY 4585
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0963
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8775

UNCLAS SKOPJE 000621

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/SCE AND PRM; EMBASSY BELGRADE FOR ANNE MARIE
MOORE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL MK
SUBJECT: MACEDONIA: NEW NATIONAL ACTION PLAN AIMS AT
DURABLE SOLUTIONS FOR REMAINING REFUGEES FROM KOSOVO CRISIS

1. (SBU) Summary: Ten years after the influx of nearly
350,000 refugees to Macedonia during the Kosovo crisis, the
Government of Macedonia, together with UNHCR Skopje, is
working to create durable solutions for the remaining
approximately 1,600 refugees and asylum seekers, nearly all
of whom are ethnic Roma. The GoM opened an integration center
for refugees in October and passed a national action plan for
the integration of refugees in early November, providing
nearly one million Euros in funding for the program for 2010.
While plans and programs for integration continue to
develop, increasing numbers of the remaining refugees are
seeking to return to Kosovo. Kosovo's independence and
refugees' expectations of increased international funding are
presumed to be behind the increase in requests for returns.
Through the combination of integration and returns, UNHCR
Skopje has set out a solutions/exit strategy that aims to
find durable solutions for the vast majority of remaining
refugees by 2011. While solutions for the remaining Kosovo
refugees move forward, the quality of Macedonia's legal
framework for refugee and asylum determinations has also
improved-- providing a more stable foundation for addressing
refugee issues in the future. The Parliament passed a new law
on asylum and temporary protection (which entered into force
on December 15). This law meets all EU standards for asylum
and temporary protection and most international standards
promoted by UNHCR. End Summary.

Integration Plan: A Regional Model?
-----------------------------------

2. (SBU) In early November, the GoM adopted a national
action plan for integration of refugees and foreigners. The
action plan follows passage in December 2008 of a strategic
plan for integration of refugees. UNHCR strongly supported
the process, aiding in finding a professional consultant to
develop the plan, and providing input and modifications as
the plan developed. At the time the Strategic Plan was
adopted, UNHCR Skopje indicated that Macedonia was the first,
and perhaps would be the only, country in the region to adopt
a comprehensive approach to integration of Kosovo refugees.
According to UNHCR Skopje, some other neighboring countries
indicated they would base future diplomatic relations with
Kosovo on return of refugees. (Macedonia recognized Kosovo's
independence in October 2008 and established full diplomatic
relations earlier this year.)

3. (SBU) Somewhat surprisingly, there has not been public or
political opposition to the plan, even at the often
contentious budgeting stage. The GoM budgeted nearly 1
million Euros for the integration plan for 2010. With
assistance and support of UNHCR, the Ministry of Labor and
Social Policy (MLSP) opened an Integration Center in the
majority-Roma Skopje municipality of Shuto Orizari in
October. While the strategic and action plans for
integration call for long-term assistance to refugees in the
areas of housing and employment, the 1 million Euro budget
will initially only allow for the MLSP to take over direct
support payments for accommodations to refugees from UNHCR,
beginning January 1. The GoM hopes to draw financial support
from the international community to further develop services
of the integration center, aiming toward eventual
naturalization of those refugees who seek to remain.

Applications for Returns Way Up
-------------------------------

4. (SBU) While plans move forward to provide integration
assistance to some refugees, others are seeking voluntary
return to Kosovo. In recent years, fewer than 50 refugees
per year applied for return to Kosovo. Following Kosovo
independence, there was a sharp increase in applications for
return, with more than 300 refugees applying this year. With
increased applications, UNHCR Skopje is concerned about the
slow speed of returns to Kosovo (reporting that only 31
refugees have returned this year) and reports an urgent need
for streamlining of the return/reintegration procedures in
Kosovo.


5. (SBU) Comment: The plan forward for integration of
remaining refugees from the Kosovo crisis has, surprisingly,
not/not been politicized here. UNHCR gives high marks to the
plan, viewing it as a positive development in the region.
While Kosovo recognition, border demarcation, and
establishment of diplomatic relations with Kosovo all met
with expected political posturing and considerable media
coverage, the refugee integration plan has passed quietly and
without political opposition -- a bright spot in inter-ethnic
relations in the Balkans. End Comment.
REEKER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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