Prepared by the Department of Public Information, United Nations. This text was last updated effective 22 December 1997
Security Council establishes support group of 180 civilian police monitors
By adopting resolution 1145(1997) on 19 December 1997, the Security Council decided to establish, with effect from 16 January 1998, a support group of 180 civilian police monitors for a single period of up to nine months in the post-UNTAES period to continue monitoring the performance of the Croatian police in the Danube region, particularly in connection with the return of displaced persons. By the same resolution, the Council noted the termination of UNTAES on15 January 1998 and expressed its full support for UNTAES as it completes its mandate. The Council reiterated the continuing obligation, under the Basic Agreement, of the Government of Croatia to respect the highest standards of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and reaffirmed the right of all refugees and displaced persons originating from Croatia to return to their homes of origin. The Council welcomed the progress made in the peaceful two-way return of displaced persons and the return of refugees in the region.
11 December: Transitional Administrator meets with Ambassador Jovanovic
On 11 December 1997, UNTAES Transitional Administrator William Walker met with Ambassador Jovanovic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), who presented the views and recommendations of the FRY on the UNTAES mandate. The FRY stated that the peace operation has been carried out successfully, but the UNTAES mission was far from completed. In its view, there was a worrisome radicalization of the region fomented by Croatian extremists. Frequent acts of intimidation of the Serbian population created anxiety, fear and mistrust among the Serbian population. Ambassador Jovanovic also referred to alleged denial of educational rights of the Serbs, failure to amend the Croatian Constitution so as to guarantee full equality of Serbs in Croatia and inconsitent implementation of the Amnesty Law. The FRY therefore expected the Security Council to emphasize in a resolution its concern over the present situation in the region and the obligation of the Republic of Croatia to carry out the commitments taken before the international community fully, consistently and in good faith.
Report of the Secretary-General sums up UNTAES'
successfully completed basic objectives
In a report to the Security Council of 4 December 1997 (S/1997/953), the Secretary-General observed that, as the period of the transitional administration envisaged in the Basic Agreement drew to an end, consensus has developed between Croatia, local Serb leaders and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on two key points: firstly, that UNTAES has successfully achieved the basic objectives for which it was established; and secondly, although much has been achieved by the parties, full implementation of Croatian commitments remains incomplete. Since October, the Government of Croatia has made a major effort to meet those commitments and to reassure its citizens. The performance of the past two months should be the baseline from which additional efforts are made.
A review of the past two years showed that the success of UNTAES in the entire reintegration process was a positive precedent for peace throughout the former Yugoslavia. UNTAES has provided the necessary stability to enable Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to normalize their relations and enter into increasingly cooperative bilateral agreements, including a "soft border regime" and the re-establishment of normal commercial and traffic links between them which was essential to the full economic development of the Danube border area. UNTAES has also ensured that developments in its area did not have a negative effect on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Within the UNTAES area, there has been no large outflow of new refugees from the region and reintegration has been peaceful. Demilitarization was completed on 20 June 1996. A Transitional Police Force was established on 1 July 1996. Local and regional elections were conducted successfully on 13 and 14 April 1997. In the latter part of 1997, some 6,000 Croats and 9,000 Serbs returned to their original homes. Close cooperation with the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia resulted in the successful exhumation of the Ovcara mass grave site and the arrest of an indicted war criminal.
In order to provide reassurance and prepare the local population for the full transfer of authority, UNTAES has pursued throughout its mandate a policy of negotiating public agreements with the Government of Croatia on the post-UNTAES implementation of its commitments and guarantees. Among them are: The Basic Agreement on the Region (Erdut Agreement), signed on 12 November 1995; Affidavit on the Rights of Public Employees (16-19 December 1996); Law on Convalidation (22 September 1997); Agreement by the Croatian Pension Fund on Pension Services (29 May 1997); Declaration on Educational Certificates (11 March 1997); Declaration on Minority Education Rights (6 August 1997); Joint Statement on Reintegration of the Employment System (11 September 1997); Joint Statement on Reintegration of the Social Welfare System (11 September 1997); Organization of the Joint Council of Municipalities (23 May 1997); and the Declaration on Conditions for Judicial Reintegration (30 September 1997). Taken together with the provisions of the Croatian Constitution, those agreements, for which the Government of Croatia has made itself internationally responsible, provide the comprehensive political and institutional guarantees which, if fully implemented, will allow the people of the region to exercise freely their rights and obligations as equal citiziens of Croatia.
According to the Secretary-General, in the final analysis, it is the Croatian authorities that are responsible for the successful completion of the peaceful reintegration of the region and the true reconciliation of the people. Two essential conditions to achieve the long-term goals of the Security Council should be emphasized: Firstly the complete and unreserved commitment of Croatia to the permanent reintegration of its Serb citizens; and secondly that the international community must continue to scrutinize Croatian performance closely.
In the post-UNTAES period, many other international organizations will support Croatia by comprehensively monitoring implementation of commitments and providing reassurance of the population of the region. Without continued international engagement, there is a clear risk that the termination of UNTAES might in retrospect be seen as premature. In this connection, the Secretary-General welcomed the deployment throughout Croatia of the long-term mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the ongoing presence and support of UNHCR.
Weighing these considerations carefully, the Secretary-General was of the view that UNTAES should complete its work as originally envisaged and recommended its termination on 15 January 1998. He further recommended that the Security Council establish a support group of 180 ciivilian police monitors to continue monitoring the performance of the Croatian police in the Danube region, particularly in connection with the return of displaced persons. The civilian police monitors would be stationed throughout the Danube region and would maintain a 24-hour-a-day coverage of police activities. Three joint mobile patrols would be established in the region. The headquarters of the support group would be in Vukovar and operate under the overall responsibiliy of a small substantive unit based in Zagreb. Its operations would be limited to a period of up to nine months, with the option of terminating it sooner should circumstances so permit. In order to avoid establishing new administrative structures, the Secretary-General would appoint a senior United Nations official to head both the support group and the United Nations Liaison Office in Zagreb.
As regards civil affairs, the Secretary-General stated that, as of 4 December 1997, over 145,000 citizenship papers and 126,000 passports have been issued to residents in the region. Some 900 appeals against denials of citizenship have been pending for months in the Administrative Court and are yet to be resolved efficiently and fairly by the Croatian authorities.
The UNTAES phase two military drawdown commenced on 15 October and is on track for timely completion.
Agreement on the Reintegration of the Regional Health Sector
On 3 December 1997, the Croatian Minister of Health signed the Agreement on the Reintegration of the Regional Health Sector, covering equal treatment, rights to employment for regional health workers and full financing of the health sector. It guarantees equal access to health care for all residents and sets a 1 June 1998 deadline for all Croatian Citizens to apply for health insurance cards. UNTAES is to monitor implementation of the agreement.
22 October: Transitional Administrator meets
with Croatian President Tudjman
On 22 October 1997, UNTAES Transitional Administrator William Walker met Croatian President Franjo Tudjman who emphasized the full commitment of Croatia to meet all commitments and do everything necessary to create the conditions for permanent reconciliation and co-existence with the Serb national minority. This policy would be continued after UNTAES' departure.
Presidential Statement of 20 October 1997 states there is
sufficient time for Croatia to comply with its obligations before 15 January 1998
In a Presidential Statement of 20 October 1997 (S/PRST/1997/48), the Security Council noted with approval positive actions taken by Croatia, including recent agreements on education, progress in the reintegration of the judiciary, the law on convalidation, moves toward recognition of pensioner service, assistance to local governments and municipalities and provision to UNTAES of documentation on 25 war crimes cases. The Council was also encouraged by the increased cooperation with the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
The Security Council continued to note with concern that there were still outstanding areas of contention and non-compliance which required further urgent action from the Government of Croatia. The Council reiterated its call to Croatia to curb media attacks on ethnic groups. It underlined the importance of the removal of all legal and administrative barriers to the accelerated voluntary two-way return of displaced persons, as well as to the return of refugees. The Council called upon the Government of Croatia to give immediate effect to decisions of the Constitutional Court regarding the Law on the Temporary Takeover and Administration of Specified Property, and to take further action to promote the return of owners to their homes, including access to reconstruction assistance. Much progress in these areas must be made on an urgent basis in order for Croatia to create the conditions for a successful completion of UNTAES. For its part, the local Serb population must also take more active measures to participate in the reintegration process.
The Council approved the intention to retain UNCIVPOL and UNMO's at current levels to the end of the UNTAES mandate and noted the need to address concerns relating to the continuation of police monitoring functions. The Council welcomed the close cooperation between UNTAES and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Croatia. Finally, the Security Council shared the assessment of the Secretary-General that there was sufficient time for Croatia to comply fully with its obligations and commitments before 15 January 1998 and urged Croatia to redouble its efforts in the remaining time.
Report of the Secretary-General of 2 October 1997
In a report to the Security Council dated 2 October 1997 (S/1997/767), the Secretary-General noted that over the past 20 months, the Government of Croatia has achieved many of the goals established in the Basic Agreement and in its letter of 13 January 1997. Most technical reintegration issues have been successfully addressed. However, as at 25 September, substantial goals still remained to be accomplished before the end of UNTAES' mandate. It was of particular concern that in recent weeks Croatia has sought to repudiate unambiguous commitments made in key documents and to ignore the results of the elections of 13 and 14 April 1997 by using the 1991 census as the basis for determining Croat/Serb proportional representation in local institutions. This contradicts the clear terms of the Basic Agreement that all persons who have left the region or who have come to the region with previous permanent residence in Croatia shall enjoy the same rights as all other residents of the region.
The Secretary-General noted that five months after local elections, the power sharing agreement between Croat and Serb political parties was not working well. There continued to be a demonstrable lack of commitment by Croatian officials to work towards the establishment of effective local government administration. Municipalities throughout the region lacked adequate financial resources. Only the tax and customs authorities operated on a full-time basis. As regards civil affairs, most of the region's residents have received Croatian documents. As at 25 September, approximately 146,000 citizenship documents, 130,000 Croatian identity cards and 126,000 passports have been issued. However, over 1,300 residents have been denied naturalization on the basis that they failed to meet the provisions of the Croatian law on citizenship.
The Secretary-General reported some progress on returns. Since April 1997, over 5,200 Serbs have returned to their homes throughout Croatia. Of that number, 965 returned using the weekly convoys organized since July by UNTAES, UNHCR and the Croatian Office for Displaced Persons and Refugees (ODPR). Two-hundred made private arrangements for return. Over 4,100 returned spontaneously without and official confirmation from the Government of Croatia. They have now been granted retroactive confirmation. In the same period, only 320 Croats have returned to the region with official confirmation of ODPR. An additional 1,500 Croats have returned spontaneously, mainly to reconstructed villages in the south of the region. There are over 750 vacant and habitable homes to which Croats could return immediately. Two-way returns have been held up by the slow action of ODPR, the uncertain security and economic situation in ares of potential return and legal impediments to getting back property.
Current UNTAES military activities focus on creating the conditions to facilitate the reintegration and reconciliation process while supporting the safe return of displaced persons and refugees. UNTAES military engineers and the mine action centre have demined more than 150 kilometres of railroad, 75 kilometres of high-power lines and 10 villages.
The Secretary-General observed that of fundamental concern was there was no attempt by the Government of Croatia to lead and support a national programme of reconciliation and confidence-building. The political leadership had yet to prepare the population, at a minimum, to coexist peacefully and to begin to rebuild functioning multi-ethnic communities in the region. The need for such a programme is evident to avoid ethnic harassment as displaced persons were returning home. Also, the performance of some of the local Serb leadership has been passive and lacklustre. They have shown little vigour or initiative in encouraging the population to take advantage of Croatian programes and have slowed the progress in some areas, including giving their approval for Serb school textbooks to be printed. It has been left to UNTAES to urge prompt registration of local businesses, plan and execute multi-ethnic confidence-building activities and to prepare the way for the return of Croats to the region.
Deficiencies in Croation cooperation and performance over the past two months have delayed the decision by the Transitional Administrator that conditions have been achieved for the transfer of authority to Croatia. The first phase of the exit strategy has not been completed and authority cannot be handed over at the present time. It was the Administrator's view that transfer of authority over the region to Croatia at the present time would jeopardize the achievements made, but that Croatia could meet its obligations and commitments if it applied itself with sufficient diligence in the remaining time. In view of the stable military situation, the second phase repatriation of the military contingent of UNTAES could start on 15 October and be completed by 15 November. However, because conditions have not yet been achieved to enable to full integration of the Transitional Police Force (TPF) into the Croatian police force, the present civilian police strength of 400 would be required at least until 15 January 1998. It was also essential that the number of United Nations military observers remained unchanged at 100.
Agreement on reintegration of the judiciary signed;
On 30 September 1997, the Agreement on the Reintegration of the Judiciary was signed by the UNTAES Transitional Administrator and Croatian Justice Minister Separovic. Under the Agreement, UNTAES and the Government of Croatia confirmed that the Ministry of Justice would announce a vacancy competition for the Croatian judicial bodies in the region which would be proportionally filled by Serb representatives. The Transitional Administrator reported on 22 September 1997 that residents of the region continued to turn in military weapons on a voluntary basis, including a cumulative total since the end of the weapons buy back programme of 204 rifles, 11 anti-tank rockets, 238 grenades, and 55,000 rounds of ammunition.
Presidential Statement of 18 September 1997 calls
upon Croatia to meet its obligations
In a Presidential Statement adopted on 18 September 1997 (S/PRST/1997/45), the Security Council expressed its deep concern at the lack of substantial progress by the Government of Croatia in fulfilling the conditions and tasks that were key to the transfer of executive authority to Croatia in the region under the UNTAES mandate. The Council called upon Croatia to meet its obligations and commitments and to take immediate action by removing all administrative and legal obstacles to the two-way return of all displaced persons and refugees; to ensure security and social and economic opportunity including property rights to all returnees; to prevent harassment of returnees/ and to establish effective local government administrations. The Council called upon Croatia to ensure the regular payment of benefits to all pension and welfare recipients and open Croatian pension offices in the region; to ensure further economic reintegration; to curb media attacks on ethnic groups; and to implement fully the amnesty law and cooperate fully with the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The Security Council emphasized that prompt completion of the above tasks would determine the pace of further devolution of executive authority for the civil administration to the Croatian Government as well as further Council action.
Effective 1 August 1997, the Secretary-General appointed William Walker (United States) as the new UNTAES Transitional Administrator, taking over from his predecessor Jacques Klein. Before his new appointment, Mr. Walker was Vice-President of the United States National Defense College and before then, US Ambassador to El Salvador from 1988 to 1992. Immediately preceding that appointment, Mr. Walker served as Deputy Assistant-Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, with responsibility for Central America and Panama. In his 34 years as a Foreign Service officer, Mr. Walker served in Peru, Japan, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras and Bolivia. He holds a Master of Arts in Latin American studies from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Mr. Walker is maried and has four children.
Security Council extends UNTAES mandate;
reaffirms rights of all refugees and displaced persons
In resolution 1120(1997), adopted on 11 July 1997, the Security Council reaffirmed the right of all refugees and displaced persons originating from the Republic of Croatia to return to their homes of origin throughout Croatia. The Council strongly urged Croatia to eliminate promptly the administrative and legal obstacles to the return of refugees and displaced persons. It reminded the local Serb population in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium of the importance of continuing to demonstrate a constructive attituded towards the reintegration of the region and to cooperate with the Government of Croatia. By the same resolution, the Council extended the mandate of UNTAES until 15 January 1998 and endorsed the plan for the gradual devolution of executive responsibility for civil administration in the region by the Transitional Administrator. The Council further endorsed the plan for restructuring UNTAES and to achieving a drawdown of the UNTAES military component by 15 October 1997.
Transitional Administrator outlines benchmarkes
contained in Security Council resolution 1120(1997)
On 18 July 1997, the Transistional Administrator wrote to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman seeking his personal intervention to ensure ministerial cooperation and substantial progress under the terms of Security Council resolution 1120(1997) which identified several benchmarks to be achieved in order to permit the smooth and timely downsizing of UNTAES. The Transitional Administrator urged President Franjo Tudjman to call on his Ministers and local officials together to accelerate progress and ensure the successful completion of the UNTAES mandate. The above-mentioned benchmarks for completion by 30 September 1997 included the functioning of municipal authorities; demonstrable equal provision of Government services and benefits; substantial progress in two-way returns of displaced persons; completion of reintegration of state institutions and enterprises; economic reintegration; a programme of national reconciliation; and provisions for amnesty and the judiciary.
UNTAES two-phase exit strategy
The Secretary-General reported on 23 June to the Security Council that the Transitional Administrator had developed a two phase exit strategy for UNTAES. In the first phase, the Transitional Administrator would devolve to Croatia executive responsibility for the major part of civil administration of the region while maintaining his authority to intervene and overrule decisions should the situation deteriorate and the achievements of UNTAES be threatened. In the second phase, subject to satisfactory Croatian performance, remaining executive functions would be devolved, with Croatia assuming responsibility for the continued demilitarization of the region and gradual integration of the Transitional Police Force into the Croatian police force. The above exit strategy would allow UNTAES personnel and resources to be reduced progressively as executive functions were assumed by Croatian authorities. Reduction of the troop level to 720 personnel by mid-October was foreseen; the number of military observers would remain unchanged at 100 and the authorized strength of 600 civilian police could be reduced to the present actual strength of some 450 police . A revised civil affairs structure with a strengthened focus on returns and human rights would be based around the new municipalities in order to monitor implementation of the Basic Agreement and other Croatian guarantees and commitments. By October 1997, the strength of the civilian component would be reduced from 485 to 315 international staff and from 746 to 399 local staff, in addition to 70 United Nations volunteers.
The Secretary-General considered the proposed two-phase exit strategy to be an effective and cost efficient programme for the successful completion of peaceful reintegration and the withdrawal of UNITAES from the region. The essential prerequisite was the full cooperation of the Government of Croatia which bore the responsibility of convincing the local population that the reintegration of the region was sustainable and that the process of reconciliation was irreversible. If confidence was not achieved, the Security Council would have to reassess the situation by 15 October 1997.
Croatian State Commission for UNTAES mandate area established
On 1 May 1997, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman announced the creation of a State Commission for the Establishment of the Constitutional-Legal Order of the Republic of Croatia In The Areas of Osijek-Baranja and Vukovar-Sirmium Counties Which Are Currently Under The Administration Of UNTAES. Mr. Jure Radic, Minister for Development and Reconstruction, was named Head of the Commission. The State Commission will cooperate with UNTAES to coordinate and oversee the work of all government bodies - county, city and municipal - as it relates to peaceful reintegration of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium into Croatia.
Agreement of Working Group on Returns ratified by Croatia
The Agreement of the Working Group on the Operational Procedures of Return, which detailed a programme of return of Croatian citizens to their homes throughout Croatia was signed by Croatia on 27 April 1997 and transmitted to the Security Council the following day. The mechanisms provide equal access and equal treatment for all Croatian citizens regardless of ethnicity, asigning to all of them the identical legal status of "returnee". Under the Agreement, Croatia will, with the cooperation of the international community, organize an agency for mediation in selling or exchanging property for legal owners who no longer wish to inhabit their property. The "Land Bank" concept is to be developed by the Working Group. Croatia, UNTAES and UNHCR will seek international funding for the implementation of the return mechanisms.
The Weapons-by-Back Programme officially concluded on 31 August 1997, although some left-over arms continue to be turned in to UNTAES military elements. Since the inception of the buy-back programme, 8,152 rifles, 742 reusable anti-tank rocket launchers, 5,330 non-reusable anti-tank rocket launchers, 13,335 grenades, and almost 1.7 million rounds of ammunition were collected.
As of 13 June 1997, mine clearing included 65,596,770 square meters and more than 3,200 buildings with 138,421 square meters of different construction and other wast removed. An average of 649 persons were included in mine clearing with 152 different engineering machines and aids. The following places have been cleared of land-mines: Apsevci, Lipovac, Podgrade, Ceric, Donje Novo Selo, Nijemci and Antunovac, as well as the Vinkovci-Vukovar railway line and the Vinkovci-Vukovar power grid. During the last year, over $65 million kunas have been spent on mine clearing activities in the UNTAES mandate region.
The Secretary-General stated in his report on the situation in Croatia that the role of the UNTAES border monitors has been to supervise UNTAES management of the immigration, customs and police border control regime at five crossing points with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and at the Udvar crossing with Hungary. On average, some 25,000 to 30,000 people and 12,000 vehicles use these crossings each day. Illegal timber exports from the region and traffic in looted goods have been stopped at these crossings. As the UNTAES military component disengaged from border control operations and Croatian officials assumed responsibility for international borders, the role of UNTAES border monitors will revert to ensuring the free and non-discriminatory movement of people in accordance with national immigration and customs controls.
Croatian Office of Displaced Persons and Refugees prosposes
1 October deadline to end displaced persons' registration
At a Joint Working Group Meeting (JWG) on 29 August 1997 with UNTAES, the Office of Displaced Persons and Refugees (ODPR) announced that it would issue during that week "returnee status" documents to the estimeated 5,000 spontaneous returnees who have returned to their homes outside the JWG process. This should facilitate the local issuance of other documentation that these individuals need to qualify for state benefits. At the same meeting, ODPR formally proposed to end displaced persons' registration on 1 October 1997, asserting that it would induce the remainder of persons to register. As at the end of August, 11,900 families amounting to 27,645 individuals registered with ODPR, half of them opting to return. UNTAES has been reluctant to agree to curtailing displaced persons registrations on the grounds that the Croatian authorities should first demonstrate sustainable progress under all aspects of the JWG mechanism. In recognition of the increasing willingness of the Croatian authorities to move displaced persons efficiently, UNHCR approved a $2.8 million grant to ODPR. As at 18 August, 10,639 families comprising 24,459 individuals registered with ODPR. United Nations Military Observers confirmed 566 vacant homes in the region.
UNHCR expresses concern about slow return rates In August 1997., UNHCR expressed concern about the slow return rate of Serb refugees and displaced persons from the UNTAES area. Although on 20 August a record number of 110 persons was repatriated within the region, the overall figure at that date stood at 450. Meanwhile some 2,000 people had spontaneously returned to the Knin area in which process they could not avail themselves to any official assistance. UNHCR attempted to improve the refugee flux through the Joint Working Group on Refugees and Displaced Persons.
Report of the Secretary-General
In his report of 23 June 1997 on the situation in Croatia, the Secretary-General stated that the return to their homes of Serb displaced persons at present occupying Croat housing in the region was the essential condition for Croat displaced persons to be able to return. This had become a priority task for UNTAES. To accelerate the orderly return of refugees into and out of the region, Croatia had on 24 April adopted operational procedures and opened six branches of ODPR in the region. These procedures have been developed by a Joint Working Group comprising UNTAES, UNHCR and Croatian officials.
Slow establishment of municipal authorities
UNTAES Transitional Administrator William Walker reported on 9 September 1997 very slow progress in the establishment of functioning local municipalities. At present, only 15 of the 29 municipalities in the region could be considered to be partly functioning and many elected Croat officials have been refusing to move into the region for alleged security concerns. The main reason for this situation was the lack of neccessary funds, equipment and instructions to the municipalities. Legal recognition of the new municipal boundaries has still not been granted. After enormous delays, the Joint Council on Municipalities was registered under Croatian law. Of those 29 municipalities, only 9 are fully operational. The other 20 still have to obtain official papers and seals, access to funds and to approve a budget. There has been no official contact between Serb and Croat officials in the Vukovar city administration during the first two weeks of August 1997.
According to Croatian records, as of 25 July 1997, 142,163 domovnicas out of 159,895 applications were issued. This included 53,074 individuals out of 54,558 applications who received domovnica after going through the naturalization process. As of that date, 125,486 identification cards and 53,074 citizenship certificates were issued. The number of domovnicas issued substantially exceeded the the estimated population of the regions, which was believed to stand at 125,000.
Secretary-General reports increased freedom of movement
In his report to the Security Council dated 23 June 1997 on the situation in Croatia, the Secretary-General noted that several programmes have been introduced to increase freedom of movement progressively in the region. These included sponsored visits which have allowed nearly 89,000 people to travel in both directions; the reintroduction of regular bus service stopping at eight points in the region and nearby Croatian cities, the organization of a weekly market with over 150,000 participants since August 1996 and, as of 5 June 1997, a system to allow all vehicles with Croatian licence plates and and UNTAES pass to move freely in the region nad throughout Croatia.
Secretary-General identifies paramount economic challenges
In his report to the Security Council dated 23 June 1997 on the situation in Croatia, the Secretary-General said that the paramount economic challenge for the region was to identify sources of funding of some $1.2 billion for demining and reconstruction. More than 700,000 mines were placed in the region, and the infrastructure and housing of entire villages were destroyed during the conflict. During two international donors' meetings, $59.1 million were committed for reconstruction projects. Projects worth approximately $22.7 million were in progress, with projects worth another $35 million pending final commitments. On 19 May 1997, UNTAES initiated the transformation of the monetary and financial system of the region by introducing the Croatian kuna as legal tender., integrating the local payments system in that of Croatia and regulating all economic activity in accordance with relevant Croatian commercial laws. International donations
As of 23 June 1997, the European Union (EU) allocated $2.8 million for housing reonstruction in the region and in Western Slavonia to facilitate the return of displaced persons to and from the UNTAES region. With these additional funds, the EU had committed $21 million to projects in the region - including$2.7 million for UNHCR pilot projects. Italy was to finance projects worth $700,000 in 1997, $.3 million in 1998 and $1.9 million in 1999 for economic and agricultural assistance and infrastructure repair.
The successful holding of municipal and local elections in the region, conducted by UNTAES on 13-14 April 1997, was a historic milestone in the peaceful reintegration and the implementation of the UNTAES mandate. Those elections were conducted simultanuously with elections throughout Croatia. The elections marked the first time since the conflict began that the local population had legitimate representation in the Croatian constitutional and legal system and cleared the path for the two-way return of all displaced persons.
The high voter turnout in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium of over 72,000 votes cast was beyond expectations. Due to technical difficulties, voting inside the region was extended to 14 April and until 15 April in one polling station. No security incidents or evidence of notable fraud were recorded during the conduct of elections. The Transitional Administrator certified the elections on 22 April, and the results have been accepted by all major parties. The newly formed Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) won an absolute majority in 11 of the 28 municipalities. In the symbolically important city of Vukovar, SDSS and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) each won 12 out of 26 seats. Discussions have commenced between them on a coalition city administration. The elections opened the way for rapid progress on practical aspects of reintegration. On 24 April, the Croatian Government adopted the recommendations of a Joint Working Group of UNTAES, UNHCR and Croatia on the return of displaced persons which provide for equal treatment and equal rights for all affected.
Security Council urges early formation of newly elected government bodies
In a Presidential Statement of 8 May 1997, the Security Council urged the early formation of the newly elected bodies of local government and prompt and full implementation of the BASIC AGREEMENTand the letter of Croatia dated 13 January 1997 on the reintegration of the UNTAES mandate region into Croatia (S/1997/27). The Council urged establishing the Joint Council of Municipalities and the appointment of local Serbs to the guaranteed positions in the parliamentary and administrative structures of Croatia. It emphasized the importance of the two-way return for all displaced persons in Croatia, as well as the right of residents of a State to choose freely where they wish to live.
Voter participation and election monitoring
Residents currently living in the region voted at 193 polling station including 30 polling locations for absentee voting for the authorities outside the region. Over 56,000 displaced persons elsewhere in Croatia cast absentee ballots in 75 polling locations with 645 polling stations. The final number of voters inside the UNTAES mandate area was over 71,000, of which fewer than 1,000 voted in absentia for authorities to be elected in their former places of residence. Local Electoral Commissions (LEC's) were appointed by the Joint Implementation Committee on Elections (JIC) and assisted by UNTAES Election Officers. The JIC on Elections appointed an Electoral Appeals Commission composed of Serb and Croat jurists and chaired by an UNTAES-appointed international judge. A Media Experts Commission (MEC) was appointed with a similar composition to monitor equitable access of all registered parties and candidates to the media.
Within the UNTAES region, over 150 UNTAES observers were deployed to all polling stations as static monitors. In addition, 30 OSCE observer teams, observers from the Council of Europe and diplomats visited numerous polling stations during the elections. No intimidation, violence or electoral improprieties were observed before, during or after the elections.
Secretary-General assesses elections; UNTAES Administrator certifies results
The Secretary-General, on 21 April 1997, expressed appreciation as to the positive assessment of the elections by UNTAES Administrator Jacques Klein. The Secretary-General said that "the next most significant challenge in the implementation of the UNTAES mandate will be the establishment of the conditions necessary for the return home of all displaced persons and refugees. It is up to the Security Council, to which I will present my recommendations shortly, to decide on the modalities of the future United Nations presence in the region.".
On 22 April, Jacques Klein formally certified the elections. The final report of the Electoral Appeals Commission stated that all complaints presented were duly considered but dismissed and, therefore, did not impact on the free and fair character of the elections. By a letter dated 29 April 1997, the Secretary-General communicated the election results to the President of the Security Council.
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