20 October 1997


Press Release
SC/6430



SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS ON GOVERNMENT OF CROATIA TO SPEED EFFORTS TO MEET OBLIGATIONS BEFORE UN MANDATE ENDS

19971020
Presidential Statement Expresses Concern at Issues Unresolved; Notes Scheduled Completion of Transitional Operation in January 1998

The Security Council said today that further, urgent action was needed by the Government of the Republic of Croatia for it to meet its obligations and create the conditions for a successful completion of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES).

In a statement read by its President, Juan Somavia (Chile), the Council noted with concern that there were still many outstanding issues of contention and non-compliance, and it called upon the Croatian Government to accelerate efforts to complete positive initiatives prior to the end of the current UNTAES mandate on 15 January 1998. The Security Council welcomed the Government's recent establishment of a programme of national reconciliation, but said the final assessment of that programme must await its full and prompt implementation.

At the same time, the Council called on the local Serb population in the region to take more active measures to participate in the reintegration process. It also noted the urgent need for all local government bodies in the region, particularly the City Council of Vukovar, to commence full normal functions immediately.

The Council called on the Government of Croatia to remove all legal and administrative barriers allowing the accelerated voluntary two-way return of displaced persons, including their right to choose to live in the region; and allowing the return of refugees. It also called upon Croatia to give immediate effect to recent decisions of the Constitutional Court regarding the Law on the Temporary Takeover and Administration of Specified Property. Reiterating its call for the Government to curb media attacks on ethnic groups, the Council urged further action to promote the safe return of owners to their homes and the resolution of the issue of lost tenancy rights, including ensuring access to reconstruction assistance.


Expressing agreement with the Secretary-General's view that Croatia could fulfil its obligations before the end of the mission's mandate, the Council voiced its expectation that the Government will build on progress made relating to agreements on education, reintegration of the judiciary, law on convalidation, recognition of pensioners services, and assistance to local governments and municipalities. Other positive developments noted by the Council were Croatia's increased cooperation with the International Tribunal on the Former Yugoslavia and its disclosure of documents to UNTAES relating to 25 war crimes cases.

In its statement this morning, the Council also approved the intention of the Secretary-General to retain the United Nations civilian police and military observers at their current level until the end of the current UNTAES mandate. It expressed concern about the behaviour of some officers of the Transitional Police Force and urged full cooperation with the efforts of UNTAES to improve the work of the Force.

The UNTAES is working to implement a two-phased exit strategy, by which it intends to gradually turn over executive responsibility for civil administration in the region from the Transitional Administrator to the Government of Croatia. The Council endorsed the plan presented by the Secretary-General on 14 July through its adoption of resolution 1120 (1997). The strategy also provides for the restructuring of UNTAES, leading to its withdrawal, and stipulated that the pace of devolution of executive responsibility would be commensurate with Croatia's demonstrated ability to reassure the Serb population and successfully complete peaceful integration.

The meeting, which was called to order at 11:40 a.m., was adjourned at 11:50 a.m.

Presidential Statement

The full text of the Presidential statement, to be issued as document S/PRST/1997/48, reads as follows:

"The Security Council welcomes the report of the Secretary-General of 2 October 1997 (S/1997/767), on the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES), and agrees with its balanced and objective assessment.

"The Security Council notes with approval several positive actions taken by the Government of Croatia which are contained in the report, as well as those which have occurred since the report was issued. These developments include the recent agreements relating to education, progress on the reintegration of the judiciary, the law on convalidation, moves towards recognition of pensioner service, assistance to local governments and municipalities, and provision to UNTAES of documentation on 25 war crimes


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cases. The Council is also encouraged by the increased cooperation with the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The Council expects the Government of Croatia to continue to build upon these positive steps and accelerate its efforts in order fully to complete these initiatives.

"The Security Council welcomes the recent establishment by the Government of Croatia of a programme for national reconciliation. A final assessment of this programme must await its full and prompt implementation.

"The Security Council continues to note with concern that there are still many outstanding areas and issues of contention and non-compliance, which require further, urgent action from the Government of Croatia. The Council reiterates its call to the Government of Croatia to curb media attacks on ethnic groups. The Council also underlines, in particular, the importance of the removal of all legal and administrative barriers, thus allowing the accelerated voluntary two-way return of displaced persons, including their right to choose to live in the region, as well as the return of refugees. It calls upon the Government of Croatia to give immediate effect to recent 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 safe return of owners to their homes and the resolution of the issue of lost tenancy rights, including ensuring access to reconstruction assistance.

"Much progress in these and other outstanding areas must be made on an urgent basis, in order for the Government of Croatia to comply fully with its obligations and 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 Security Council notes the urgent need for all local government bodies in the region, particularly the City Council of Vukovar, to commence full normal functions immediately.

"The Security Council expresses its concern about the behaviour of some officers of the Transitional Police Force, and urges full cooperation with UNTAES in improving the performance of this Force. The Council approves the intention of the Secretary-General to retain United Nations civilian police and military observers at current levels to the end of the UNTAES mandate. The Council also notes the need to address concerns relating to the continuation of police monitoring functions.

"The Security Council welcomes the close cooperation between UNTAES and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in expanding the long-term mission of the OSCE in Croatia.

"The Security Council shares the assessment of the Secretary-General that there is sufficient time for Croatia to comply fully with its obligations and commitments before 15 January 1998 and urges the Government of Croatia to redouble its efforts in the time remaining. The Council looks forward to the


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next report of the Secretary-General on all aspects relevant to the peaceful reintegration of the region, due by the beginning of December."

Secretary-General's Report

In his report (document S/1997/767), the Secretary-General states that the first phase of the operation's exit strategy has not been completed owing to substantial deficiencies in the Croatian Government's actions over the past two months. A review of those actions indicates a lack of political will. The Transitional Administrator therefore decided that conditions do not yet exist for the transfer of authority to Croatia.

The exit strategy, endorsed by the Security Council in its resolution 1120 (1997) on 14 July, provides for the gradual devolution of executive responsibility for civil administration in the region from the Transitional Administrator to the Croatian Government. The strategy also includes plans for the restructuring of UNTAES and its gradual withdrawal. The devolution of executive responsibility is outlined in two phases and is being paced commensurate with Croatia's demonstrated ability to reassure the Serb population and successfully complete peaceful reintegration.

Croatia has made significant achievements in such areas as the reintegration of State institutions, the report states. However, its cooperation in integrating the people of the region and in implementing agreements important to their long-term rights and welfare has been less apparent. Of fundamental concern is the fact that Croatia has made no attempt to lead and support a national programme of reconciliation and confidence-building.

The Secretary-General states that there is significant time for Croatia to further improve its performance and to comply fully with its obligations before 15 January 1998, when the current UNTAES mandate expires and the Council must decide the operation's future. The Government's renewed commitment to that end must be put into practice immediately to establish sufficient confidence that the termination of the UNTAES mandate can be achieved without jeopardizing the results of two years of intensive international investment in the process of peaceful reintegration of the region and its people.

The stable military situation in the region has allowed for the reduction of UNTAES personnel from 5,000 to 2,530, thus completing the first phase of UNTAES restructuring, according to the Secretary-General. The Transitional Administrator considers that the second phase repatriation can begin on 15 October and be completed by 15 November, reducing the military contingent to 720 military personnel plus 45 guards stationed at Pleso in Zagreb. As had been planned, the number of United Nations military observers has remained at 100 and will remain unchanged until the mandate's end.


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However, conditions have not been created for the ethnically mixed Transitional Police Force (TPF) to be fully integrated into the Croatian police force, the report states. Consequently, the United Nations civilian police force will remain at its current strength of 400, instead of being reduced to 250 as had been planned. That level will be maintained until 15 January 1998 to allow the United Nations civilian police to continue monitoring all TPF operations.

The Secretary-General states that UNTAES will continue its close cooperation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and assist in establishing the OSCE's mission in Croatia, which is to remain there long term. He acknowledges concerns that sufficient and adequate resources would need to be made available to carry out the highly important and resource-intensive police monitoring function beyond 15 January 1998.

Letter from Croatia

Also before the Council is a 3 October letter from the Permanent Representative of Croatia to the President of the Council (document S/1997/772), in which he states that the Government has continued to take new steps in the reintegration process, including a comprehensive and far-reaching reconciliation programme to re-establish mutual trust, facilitate two-way returns and work towards a normalization of the situation.

Goals of the programme, which is annexed to the letter, include the speedy, secure and organized return of all Croatian citizens to regions of Croatia from which they were expelled or displaced, and the inclusion of all citizens in the building of a democratic society within the existing democratic system. The programme is intended to create a climate of tolerance, establish trust between all citizens, and promote the realization of the equality of citizens with respect to State administration.

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