SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS ON CROATIA TO INTENSIFY EFFORTS TO PROMOTE FULL REINTEGRATION OF EASTERN SLAVONIA, BARANJA, WESTERN SIRMIUM

13 February 1998
SC/6477

SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS ON CROATIA TO INTENSIFY EFFORTS TO PROMOTE FULL REINTEGRATION OF EASTERN SLAVONIA, BARANJA, WESTERN SIRMIUM

13 February 1998

Press ReleaseSC/6477

SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS ON CROATIA TO INTENSIFY EFFORTS TO PROMOTE FULL REINTEGRATION OF EASTERN SLAVONIA, BARANJA, WESTERN SIRMIUM

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The Security Council this afternoon called upon the Government of Croatia to intensify its efforts to promote full reintegration of the Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium, in particular, to resolve property issues and other problems hindering the return of refugees and displaced persons.

In a statement read out by its President, Denis Dangue Rewaka (Gabon), the Council also called upon the Government to protect human rights, including taking action against harassment, to fully address uncertainties about the implementation of the Amnesty Law, and to take measures to improve public confidence in the Croatian police.

It commended the commitment shown by the Government of Croatia to the implementation of its comprehensive programme of national reconciliation, and stressed the need for continued progress in that regard. It underlined the importance of continued efforts by the Government to ensure full participation by the Serb minority in the political life of the country, including through urgent funding of the Joint Council of Municipalities.

Welcoming the successful completion of the mission of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES), the Council observed that its experience might be useful for similar situations in the future. It noted that despite the positive conclusion of UNTAES and the efforts of the Government of Croatia, including its request for the establishment of the civilian police support group, much remained to be done.

The Council said the Government remained responsible for the rights and safety of members of all ethnic groups within the country and was bound by its obligations and commitments under the Basic Agreement on the Region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (document S/1995/951) and other international agreements.

Emphasizing the key role of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) throughout Croatia, including in the Danube region, the Council expressed strong support for the closest possible cooperation between the United Nations and the OSCE.

The meeting, which was called to order at 3:42 p.m., adjourned at 3:49 p.m.

Presidential Statement

The full text of the presidential statement, to be issued as document S/PRST/1998/3, reads as follows:

"The Security Council welcomes the successful completion of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES), as described in the report of the Secretary-General of 22 January 1998 (S/1998/59). The experience of this multifunctional operation may be useful for similar situations in the future. "The Security Council commends the commitment shown by the Government of the Republic of Croatia to the implementation of its comprehensive programme of national reconciliation, and stresses the need for continued progress in this regard. The Council is also encouraged by signs of increasing participation in Croatian political life by the region's ethnic Serb citizens, and underlines the importance of continued efforts by the Government of the Republic of Croatia to ensure full participation by the Serb minority in the political life of the country, including through urgent funding of the Joint Council of Municipalities.

"The Security Council notes that, despite the positive conclusion of UNTAES and the efforts of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, including its request for the establishment of the civilian police support group, much remains to be done. The Government of the Republic of Croatia remains responsible for the rights and safety of members of all ethnic groups within the Republic of Croatia and bound by its obligations and commitments under the Basic Agreement on the Region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (S/1995/951) and other international agreements. In this regard, the Council calls upon the Government of the Republic of Croatia to intensify its efforts to promote full reintegration of the region, in particular to resolve property issues and other problems which are hindering the return of refugees and displaced persons, to protect human rights including by taking action against harassment, to address in full uncertainties about the implementation of the Amnesty Law and to take measures to improve public confidence in the Croatian police.

"In this context, the Security Council emphasizes the key role of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) throughout the Republic of Croatia, including in the Danubian region. The Council strongly supports the closest possible cooperation between the United Nations and the OSCE, in particular between the OSCE mission and the support group and other United Nations offices and agencies in the Republic of Croatia as envisaged by the Secretary-General, and, to that end, encourages the support group and the OSCE mission to keep each other fully informed.

"The Security Council pays tribute to the dedicated men and women of UNTAES, and, in particular, expresses its appreciation to the Transitional Administrators and the Force Commanders for their leadership of the UNTAES mission."

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Secretary-General's Report

In his report (document S/1998/59), covering the period 4 December 1997 to the conclusion of the UNTAES mandate on 15 January 1998, the Secretary- General states that progress had continued to be made on a range of issues and that the Government of Croatia had, in particular, displayed commendable energy and commitment in the conduct of its comprehensive programme of national reconciliation. The benefits of the programme had become increasingly evident with the national media displaying a more constructive and conciliatory line in covering issues related to the Serb minority. Equally encouraging had been the messages of tolerance and reconciliation issued by political and religious leaders.

The key factor for consolidating the achievements of UNTAES, the report states further, would be the continued demonstration, through practical steps, by Croatian government authorities of their determination to protect the rights of all minorities, in accordance with accepted international standards. The revitalization of the economy and the creation of real and equal opportunities for all citizens would be an important element to supplement the efforts of the Government of Croatia.

It was unfortunate, nevertheless, that several key issues had remained unresolved, the Secretary-General observes. Obligations in the areas of property-related issues, tenancy rights, funding for the Joint Council of Municipalities, and full implementation of the Amnesty Law had yet to be fulfilled. The lack of progress on those commitments could have serious implications and affect other areas as local confidence in government pledges eroded. The Government of Croatia must address those issues with the same energy that it had shown in other areas since September 1997.

He adds that critical to sustaining progress would be the role of the international community and Croatia's key bilateral partners, which must remain actively engaged in assessing Croatian performance on those and other issues. Welcoming the key role that would be played by the OSCE, the Secretary-General says the Security Council might wish to consider inviting the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE to keep the United Nations regularly informed of relevant developments in the mission area.

For his part, he would instruct the Head of the United Nations Liaison Office in Zagreb to maintain close contacts with the United Nations agencies in Croatia, in particular, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as other international organizations, especially the OSCE, to keep the Security Council informed of the situation in the region.

Croatia's request for further United Nations police assistance demonstrated its political will to complete the process of peaceful reintegration and, in

Security Council - 4 - Press Release SC/6477 3854th Meeting (PM) 13 February 1998

particular, that it accepted its responsibilities for non-discriminatory policing in the future, the Secretary-General notes. He recalls that in accordance with Council resolution 1145 (1997), the United Nations Civilian Police Support Group would work closely with the Government of Croatia to monitor police operations in the Danube region and to improve the professional qualities of the multi- ethnic police forces. That commitment and support from the international community would ensure that the region was policed effectively and impartially, thereby facilitating the vital process of two-way returns of displaced persons during 1998.

A United Nations military liquidation force, with the tasks of securing drawdown operations and guarding the remaining UNTAES assets and personnel, had been operational since 15 October 1997 and, as of 15 January, was being progressively phased out. The Secretary-General states that he plans to retain a United Nations guard element of 60 military personnel until 1 March, with the number being cut to half by the completion of the liquidation, scheduled by 31 May. The security of both military, and civilian personnel remaining in the Danube region would be provided by the Government of Croatia.

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For information media. Not an official record.