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BOSNIA,S RETURN STRATEGY

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On June 18, 2009, the Republika Srpska
(RS) delegates in the House of Peoples of the BiH Parliament
(BiH HoP) rejected a proposed Revised Strategy for
implementation of Annex VII (dealing with returns of
displaced persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina) and returned it
to the Council of Ministers (CoM) for refinement and
adjustment. The delegates demanded that local integration
and just compensation, or housing solutions for those who
cannot or do not wish to return, be supported financially and Lace Wedding Dresses 2020
treated equally with support for displaced returnees. In
response, Bosniak parties, led by the Party of Democratic
Action (SDA), threatened to withdraw their support for
passing a Law on Census in the CoM and the State Parliament,
something the "Prud Three" political leaders agreed to in
November 2008. Mario Nenadic, Assistant Minister of Human
Rights and Refugees (MinHRR) characterized the demand of Serb
delegates as a dangerous political move that would certainly
be a death blow to the already-fragile return process.
Nenadic suggested the Parliamentary vote was a consequence of
a long-term campaign by some inside the MinHRR working in the
interest of Serb nationalist political leaders. END SUMMARY.

RS Pushes for Integration
-------------------------

2. (SBU) On June 18, 2009, RS delegates from the Alliance of
Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) and the Party of
Democratic Progress (PDP) in the BIH HoP rejected the
proposed Revised Strategy for implementation of Annex VII
(the annex of the Dayton Peace Agreement that deals with the
rights of displaced persons and refugees to return and
repossess their property) in Bosnia, and returned the law to
the Council of Ministers for "further refinement and
adjustments." The Strategy is an improved version of the
2003 Return Strategy; it provides framework, mechanisms, and
a range of recommendations for successful and sustainable
completion of Bosnia's return process by 2014. The RS
delegates' main criticism was directed at the Strategy's
overwhelming support for return (though this is consistent
with past strategies), while, in their view, it fails to
equally treat the issue of local integration of displaced
persons in the communities of displacement, a solution the RS
delegates exclusively prefer. The delegates demanded housing
solutions or just compensation for those families or
individuals who do not wish or are unable to return to their
prewar communities. Finally, they asked the CoM to propose a
Law on a Fund for Just Compensation as a necessary legal
basis for implementation of just compensation.

Bosniak Parties Retaliate
-------------------------

3. (SBU) Rejection of the Strategy prompted fierce reactions
by Bosniak politicians, especially Sulejman Tihic, the
President of SDA, and Beriz Belkic, from the Party for Bosnia
and Herzegovina (SBiH). Tihic said his party would, in
response to RS rejection of the Return Strategy, block the
adoption of the Law on Census in both the CoM and the
Parliament. (Note: this Law must be passed if Bosnia and
Herzegovina is to carry out a census in 2011. The last
census was conducted in 1991. If not rectified soon, the
lack of a current census will impede BiH on its EU path.)
Tihic told the media that the adoption and implementation of
Annex VII, the taking of a loan of KM 500 million from
international banks to support returns, and the carrying out
of a census in 2011 were all part of the same package, a
political deal he negotiated with Covic and Dodik in Prud on
November 8, 2008. Tihic said that if one element of this
package agreement fails the whole package fails.

Compensation for Integration not in Annex VII
---------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Mario Nenadic, Assistant Minister in the MinHRR and
our longstanding contact, told the Embassy that the recent
move of the RS delegates is a dangerous political maneuver.
He sees it as a final stab at the already fragile and
diminished return process in Bosnia. Nenadic explained that
a provision of just compensation and support for local
integration to all those who don't want to return to their
prewar homes has no legal basis in Annex VII. He explained,
however, that Annex VII does include (and the Strategy
foresees) a plan of dealing with compensation issues only for
those people who, for various reasons, cannot return to their
prewar places of living and who haven,t been able to
repossess their property. Since the property restitution
process (referring to property illegally occupied or
destroyed during the recent war) in Bosnia has been very
successful, the number of individuals and families eligible
for this kind of assistance would likely not be very high.
However, the dimensions of this problem are not known at this
moment. Nenadic emphasized that the Office of the High
Representative also agrees with his interpretation. He said
he is certain that, if a legal basis is created to equally
support both local integration and return, returns in Bosnia
would suffer grievously.

Plotting from Inside the Ministry
---------------------------------

5. (SBU) Nenadic told us that the rejection of the Strategy
comes as no surprise to him. For quite some time now,
Nenadic said, he has seen a clear division along ethnic lines
in both the MinHRR and in the State Commission for Refugees,
which allocates joint funding for returnees. The best
illustration was a recent allocation of return funds for a
project in Zvornik, through which local integration of people
who have no intention of returning was supported. Also,
recently several RS-based associations sent a petition with
10,000 signatures to the Ministry and the Parliament
supporting the RS delegates' recommendations. The petition
was allegedly coordinated by Dragomir Kovac, SNSD Secretary
of the Ministry, and Mladjen Bozovic, Director of the Return
Fund.

The End Phase of Returns
------------------------

6. (SBU) MinHRR claims 140,000 persons (approximately 45,000
families) still seek return to their prewar homes in Bosnia,
based on information compiled from individuals and families
who declared their interest in returning. The actual figure
of those who wish to return, as opposed to just receive
reconstruction assistance for returning, is certainly much
lower. UNHCR reports more than 1 million of the 2.2 million
people who had to flee their homes during the war have
returned to their prewar homes. This figure is also highly
debatable, as the statistics have been generated primarily on
property repossessions, not on actual returns. NGO estimates
of the actual number of returnees fluctuate between 30 and 60
percent of that figure, depending on the municipality.
Provisional statistical figures on return have dropped during
the past few years, in part due to slow, inefficient, and
inadequate action of local authorities in supporting the
process.

Comment
-------

7. (SBU) The story of actual returns in Bosnia is more or
less complete. No matter how much more assistance is
provided, a great new influx of returnees is highly unlikely.
However, Bosnia should have the capacity and the mechanisms
to assist those who wish to return, so that it can formally
close this chapter by the end of year 2014. The Revised
Strategy for implementation of Annex VII is (or was) a means
of doing so. On the other hand, calls for the moral and legal
equivalency of local integration which come from RS delegates
contain a dangerous message that the results of ethnic
cleansing are now being cemented and that non-return deserves
equal attention and assistance as return. This would run
counter to all the efforts and millions of dollars the
international community has invested in returns over the
years. Local integration is something the RS has been
supporting for years, both politically and financially, in
parallel with international support for actual returns. No
one can or will stop the RS from continuing to do so in the
years to come. However, blessing that process at the State
level and enshrining it into the Strategy for implementation
of Annex VII would open a Pandora's box.