II. Progress on reintegration
- In the statement of its President of 20 October, the Security Council welcomed several recent positive actions by the Government of Croatia and called on it to make further progress on outstanding areas on an urgent basis to comply fully with its obligations and to create the conditions for a successful completion of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES). During the reporting period, the Government of Croatia has shown more political will to complete reintegration successfully and has increased its efforts to meet its obligations. Important progress has been made, although not all obligations have been fulfilled. Some commitments clearly cannot be fully implemented within the two-year transitional period envisaged in the Basic Agreement of 12 November 1995 (S/1995/951, annex), and Croatian performance in some other areas can only be evaluated with the passage of time.
- It should be recalled that UNTAES was established by the Security Council by its resolution 1037 (1996) of 15 January 1996, in response to the request of the parties to the Basic Agreement for an international force to maintain peace and security and to assist in the implementation of the Basic Agreement during a transitional period of a maximum of two years. The transitional period will end on 15 January 1998.
- The major tasks of UNTAES were to assist in the demilitarization of the region; to facilitate, together with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the voluntary and safe return of refugees and displaced persons; to reintegrate civil administration and public services; to establish a temporary police force; to cooperate with the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; to organize elections; to monitor respect for the highest standards of human rights; and to promote an atmosphere of confidence among all local residents.
- A review of the past two years shows that the success of UNTAES in the entire reintegration process is 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. This is 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. The political and institutional framework for the reintegration of civil administration and public services was finalized. Local and regional elections were conducted successfully on 13 and 14 April 1997. Overall, the concept of two-way return of displaced persons and refugees was demonstrated in practice through the latter part of 1997, when some 6,000 Croats and 9,000 Serbs returned to their original homes. This is a major achievement, which two years ago many thought unlikely to happen in this time-frame. Close cooperation with the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has resulted in the successful exhumation of the Ovcara mass grave site and the arrest of an indicted war criminal. Evidence of the maintenance of local confidence was shown by the relatively small number of people (approximately 10 per cent of an estimated population of 130,000) who have chosen to emigrate from Croatia.
- In order to provide reassurance and to prepare the local population for the full transfer of authority, UNTAES, throughout its mandate, has pursued a policy of negotiating public agreements with the Government of Croatia on the postUNTAES implementation of its commitments and guarantees. A list of the 27 agreements of continuing validity, current as at 27 November, appears in annex I. Taken together with the provisions of the Croatian Constitution, those agreements, for which the Government of Croatia has made itself internationally accountable, provide a comprehensive political and institutional framework of guarantees, which, if fully implemented, will allow the people of the region to exercise freely their rights and obligations as equal citizens of Croatia. Their implementation depends on the political will of the Government, as well as on the wisdom and energy of the Serb political leadership. While at times there has been intransigence, obstruction or inertia from each party, over the past 22 months much of this resistance has been overcome, cooperation has been established and implementation of commitments has progressed. As reported below, by late November, notable improvements in Croatian cooperation and performance were evident in practically every key area.
- National reconciliation is the essential factor in the ultimate success of peaceful reintegration. On 2 October, following persistent encouragement by the Transitional Administrator, the Government adopted a comprehensive programme of national reconciliation and, on 9 October, it appointed a multi-ethnic national Board for the Realization of the Programme on the Establishment of Confidence, Acceleration of Returns and Normalization of Life, chaired by the President's Deputy Chief of Staff, to implement the programme by working through regional, municipal and local reconciliation committees. The programme calls for greater tolerance in all aspects of life and aims at facilitating the two-way return of displaced persons.
- The Board has acted with energy and commitment. It has initiated meetings with national media representatives, religious leaders and non- governmental organizations to urge moderation and support for reconciliation. There has been a welcome improvement in media coverage of Serbs in Croatia. Two thirds of the local reconciliation committees have now been established. UNTAES, for its part, has contributed to reconciliation by organizing several professional reconciliation and conflict-resolution seminars with international donor support.
Establishment of local government administration
- Since October, intensive efforts have been made by the two main Croat and Serb political parties to establish fully functioning local municipalities. Constructive initiatives include the establishment of offices in Vukovar for senior Serb and Croat officials, the opening of transit apartments in Vukovar to enable officials to live and work in the region and the successful holding of the third session of the Vukovar city assembly on 23 October after months of discord. The dismissal of a powerful but obstructive local county head has sent the clearest message to all local Croat officials to implement government policy. Instructions have been issued, but not yet fully implemented, for the dissolution of all "in exile" institutions.
- However, the functioning of local government remains incomplete in important financial and legal areas: most municipalities cannot provide basic communal services because they have not received sufficient funds; only half of them have finalized plans for economic reconstruction; and the boundaries of the new municipalities drawn before the April elections have not been legally recognized, creating doubts as to their existence after the end of UNTAES. These difficulties can be solved quickly by government action; others, such as the smooth functioning of the power-sharing agreement between the major Croat and Serb political parties and the perception of political marginalization by many Serb local officials, will require time and reconciliation to take root.
Establishment of political institutions
- The effective performance of Serb representatives in Croatian institutions in the post-UNTAES period will be crucial to the welfare of their constituents. The framework for comprehensive Serb representation comprising the Joint Council of Municipalities, the Independent Serb Democratic Party, the Serb National Council and the four Assistant Ministers and two Senior Advisers, has been in place for some months. Local Serb representatives have become progressively more active but their effectiveness is hampered by a lack of skills, finance and support. The Joint Council of Municipalities has not yet received promised government funding and has not met with President Franjo Tudjman, as requested by them, in accordance with the guarantees contained in the letter of the Government of Croatia of 13 January 1997 (see S/1997/27, annex). The Serb Assistant Ministers are showing the benefits of international training programmes. Full effectiveness of Serb representatives will require goodwill and patience from the Croatian authorities, determination by the Serbs themselves and assistance from the international community in practical training and acquisition of skills.
- Serb performance in planning for the long-term establishment of local Serblanguage media has been disappointing. It was finally left to UNTAES to negotiate an agreement to allow continued broadcasting by four local Serb radio stations and for a daily television news programme, for which international assistance is available. It is now up to the local authorities to complete the final arrangements with Croatian State Radio and Television.
Integration of public services and enterprises
- With very few exceptions, in which technical negotiations are well advanced, all public services and enterprises have been reintegrated. Ministries have generally complied with commitments to proportional representation in employment, although state enterprises at all levels have been slow and sometimes unwilling to issue permanent work contracts to Serbs. Some municipalities, especially those "in exile", have also been unwilling to fulfil employment commitments. A severance package has been agreed for eligible former employees not hired as Croatian civil servants.
- Recent progress has been made in the difficult areas of reintegration of the health and education sectors. On 15 November, the Minister of Health agreed to provide short-term contracts of one year to those Serb medical personnel who must pass state medical examinations prior to receiving permanent contracts. In conjunction with the Ministry of Science and Technology it was also agreed that Croatia would meet the costs of the "nostrification" process required for recognition of other qualifications and that the process would be completed by no later than 10 January 1998. The Minister of Health has also consented to provide medical services to all residents of the region regardless of whether or not they are in possession of Croatian health cards. It remains to be seen whether this will be fully respected for refugees and those denied Croatian citizenship. Serbs are also concerned that proportional representation in senior posts has not been achieved and that a planned major downsizing of medical staff will be implemented in a discriminatory manner.
- The ability of Serb citizens to educate their children in Serb language and culture will be a primary determinant of their willingness to stay and of Croatia's commitment to international standards of minority rights. It is deeply regrettable that implementation of the agreements on education has been unsatisfactory and has caused local anxiety and ferment. Only since mid-November did implementation begin of agreements on the use of minority languages, allocation of principals' positions, the renewal of contracts for teachers whose credentials have not yet been validated and the delivery of Cyrillic textbooks. The Government of Croatia is encouraged to pay special attention to this still sensitive area.
Equal treatment in the provision of government services and benefits
- After six years of ethnic conflict, damage to infrastructure and economic isolation, the immediate requirement for adequate social welfare services in the region is substantial. Some 13,000 residents now regularly receive full or partial pensions, but approximately 2,400 applications are still pending. Recent commitments to the effect that displaced persons could apply for and receive pensions and social welfare benefits in the region and that the period since 1991 would be considered pensionable should, if fully applied, resolve many problems. Availability of social welfare assistance is improving slowly. Beneficiaries have begun to collect a small one-time emergency payment pending the determination of their regular monthly benefits, which is awaiting new legislation to be implemented in January 1998. Unemployment benefits remain problematic. Owing to stringent regulations, only about 80 individuals have qualified for unemployment benefits in a region of massive unemployment. None have been paid yet.
- UNTAES has achieved the institutional economic reintegration of the region, but for technical, legal and possibly political reasons, there has been no progress on economic revitalization. Except for agriculture, which is hampered by mine infestation, the economy is stagnant; unemployment is rampant and formerly socially owned enterprises are inefficient. The direct costs of repairing war damage, estimated at $1.2 billion, are beyond the immediate resources of the Government. Uncommitted international pledges of $38 million remain to be fulfilled and the Government has yet to develop an economic package to encourage investment and to extend credit programmes to Serbs in the region, including utilizing funds already provided for that purpose by an international donor. The privatization process, which has taken place in the rest of Croatia over the past five years, is just beginning amidst concern based on recent evidence that economic rationalization in both state and private enterprises will be applied in a discriminatory manner against Serbs. As privatization proceeds, Croatian businesses should bear in mind the many economic advantages of a multi-ethnic workforce in this border region.
Return of displaced persons and refugees
- Croatian statistics show that some 9,000 Serbs and 6,000 Croats have returned to their homes throughout Croatia since April. No violent incidents have occurred in return areas since May, but the economic and social situation of returnees is grim. The pace of future movements is inhibited by three main factors: legal and financial obstacles to the recovery of property; unrealistic government deadlines for Serb applications for reconstruction assistance and delays in government funding for reconstruction of Serb houses; and the uncertain economic and social situation in areas of potential return. In addition, difficult winter conditions will mean that the next period of major returns will not occur until the spring of 1998. The work of UNHCR in cooperation with UNTAES has been instrumental in assisting the Government on the issue of two-way returns. The continued role of UNHCR in the Joint Working Group on Returns, its support activities to the displaced population and its direct assistance to the government authorities is essential to the realization of the principles of the Basic Agreement.
- The Government of Croatia has not yet responded to the repeated calls by the Security Council to remove legal obstacles to returns. Consequently, no long-term mechanisms have been established so far for returns to occupied homes. Although specific articles of the Law on Temporary Takeover of Property were recently declared unconstitutional, the law remains in effect and municipal authorities have not received instructions on implementing new procedures. Analysis of the proposed changes to the law gives no assurance that Croat and Serb displaced persons will receive equal treatment. There has been no resolution of the problem of restoration of lost tenancy rights in socially owned apartments in other parts of Croatia and the Government of Croatia has not presented a plan detailing options, as guaranteed in the Basic Agreement, for those Serb displaced persons who wish to receive just compensation or to remain in the region in accordance with their fundamental human rights.
- In relation to human rights, there is evidence that Serbs, in particular displaced persons, continue to be subject to administrative discrimination. Often this is manifested at the local level by officials who ignore or are unaware of government policy, resulting in obstacles in areas such as pensions, social welfare, treatment during the reconstruction of housing and health care. Such obstacles are often overcome with the help of UNTAES personnel, but they suggest a pattern, initially, of arbitrary decisions and deliberate misinformation by local officials. The Government must ensure that its decisions and policies are communicated and implemented at all administrative levels. In several reported cases, officers of the Transitional Police Force have participated in harassment or failed to provide adequate protection to Serbs under harassment. The Government's response to complaints of police misconduct has at times been disappointing.
- 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; there has been no progress in those cases, thus reducing confidence in this legal recourse. These denials, based mostly on residency rules and possible "pending criminal proceedings" (many of which refer to crimes subject to the Amnesty Law), are yet to be resolved efficiently and fairly by Croatian authorities.
Reintegration of the judiciary
- By a directive issued on 29 May, the Transitional Administrator ordered the region's judiciary to apply Croatian law for all new cases as from 1 June 1997. Building on that directive, UNTAES and the Minister of Justice of Croatia on 30 September signed a declaration fully establishing the Croatian judiciary in the region. Under that agreement, at least 40 per cent of all judges and other judicial personnel must be Serbs. The Government of Croatia has begun to comply satisfactorily with those undertakings. Meanwhile, the Bar Association of Croatia has readmitted three of the five Serb lawyers in the region eligible to practise law in Croatia.
- The application of the Amnesty Law is a cause for anxiety to many Serbs as the Government of Croatia has not met its obligations to reduce public concern by concluding investigations of alleged serious crimes against international humanitarian law with the participation of the United Nations and local Serbs. The Osijek County Court alone has stated that there may be as many as 4,000 cases that need to be reviewed before amnesty can be confirmed. The fairness of trials, especially of those charged with war crimes, is in question. In several cases monitored by UNTAES there was little or no evidence produced by the prosecution of the defendant's involvement in specific offences and the judge did not appear to be impartial.
- There is deep concern in the region that the Ministry of Defence appears to be looking for technical loopholes to avoid its clear commitment in the Croatian letter of 13 January 1997 (S/1997/27, annex) to defer the draft for a minimum period of two years for Serbs from the region. In recent weeks several Serb residents, including displaced persons, have received military call-up notices. The clear meaning of article 10 of the Croatian letter is that all Serbs who lived in the region during the transitional administration will be exempt from military service for a "period of two years from the end of the UNTAES mandate". Any other policy is likely to act as a serious deterrent to return and would contradict the spirit of the national programme on reconciliation. Croatian Serb parliamentarians and the Joint Council of Municipalities have suggested that the Government of Croatia endorse its previous commitment to a liberal policy waiving military service for all residents of the region for the next two to four years.
Maintenance of public safety and security
- The Transitional Police Force of 1,785 police officers comprises 895 Serbs, 837 Croats and 53 members of other ethnic communities. Inter-ethnic cooperation has improved and there are increased signs that Serbs are fully included in all aspects of police work, although there is only limited fraternization. Serb officers continue to be apprehensive about their personal future and work prospects once the Transitional Police Force is integrated into the Croatian police. The level of formal training and professionalism of many officers must be improved: nearly all Serb police officers require additional basic police training and Croat officers show a need for greater inter-ethnic understanding and human rights and community policing training.
- Local confidence in the Transitional Police Force remains low. It is not viewed as a credible, trustworthy police force by Serbs who remain or by Croats who will return. While the standard of basic police work of the Transitional Police Force is acceptable, it has shown reluctance to take effective action against violent offenders. It is also often hesitant to respond effectively to crimes with possible ethnic overtones, including offences committed by Croatian police from outside the region. Following strong action by the United Nations civilian police component, the level of Transitional Police Force involvement in acts of harassment and intimidation is dropping.
- Continued progress has been made in normalization of relations between Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Cross-border rail traffic resumed on 11 November, but the implementation of the "soft border" agreement was postponed to 1 December when it became clear that neither Government was ready for full implementation. The agreement will require substantial administrative flexibility and cooperation. It appears that many bona fide local residents are ineligible for border passes, several municipalities inside the UNTAES region are not included and both parties are charging prohibitive administrative fees. In meetings with the Transitional Administrator, President Slobodan Milosevic has proposed several cross-border confidence-building measures. It will be up to the Government of Croatia to determine a constructive response in the interests of wider regional stability.
- Demilitarization of both sides of the Danube has been discussed between the Governments of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia but it appears that neither wishes to sign a formal agreement. President Milosevic has informed the Transitional Administrator that there is an informal understanding that neither State will move its present garrisons closer to the border and that no military manoeuvres will take place in the border region. This is yet to be confirmed. Both Presidents have told the Transitional Administrator that neither side has anything to fear relative to the other's military intentions. No progress has been made on dual Yugoslav citizenship for Serbs in the region, which is now acknowledged to be a domestic issue for the Federal Republic.
III. United Nations Civilian Police
- The United Nations Civilian Police component will remain within its authorized strength of 400 until 15 January 1998 in order to continue to monitor all Transitional Police Force operations, including the special operations unit, the river patrol unit and the control of checkpoints and border crossings, as well as conducting patrols throughout the region, special investigations and court and prison monitoring (see annex II).
IV. Military Drawdown
- A military liquidation force of 720 all ranks, responsible for ensuring the security of drawdown operations and guarding the remaining UNTAES assets and personnel, has been operational since 15 October 1997. The drawdown of military units has proceeded on schedule, with the last elements of the Belgian and Russian battalions leaving the region on 14 November. The United Nations military observers have assumed greater responsibility for monitoring the security situation in the region since the initiation of the military drawdown. There have been no security problems associated with the operation (see annex II).
- As the period of transitional administration envisaged in the Basic Agreement draws to an end, consensus has developed between the Government of Croatia, local Serb leaders and the Government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on two key points: firstly, that UNTAES has successfully achieved the basic objectives for which it was established and has completed those tasks which were within its power; 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.
- These efforts, if sustained, give hope that the termination of UNTAES on 15 January 1998 would not jeopardize the results of two years of intensive international investment and effort in the region. In the final analysis, it is the Croatian authorities that are responsible for the successful completion of peaceful reintegration of the region and the true reconciliation of the people. However, two essential conditions for the achievement of the long-term goals established by the Security Council should be emphasized. The first is the complete and unreserved commitment of the Government of Croatia to the permanent reintegration of its Serb citizens. I am particularly encouraged that a comprehensive programme of national reconciliation has been adopted as a State priority and that President Tudjman has guaranteed that the programme will continue after UNTAES. The second condition is that the international community, and particularly Croatia's key bilateral partners and regional organizations, must continue to scrutinize Croatian performance closely and to make their voices heard whenever performance does not meet expectations.
- In this regard, the immediate priorities of the Government of Croatia for the coming winter must include the extension of national social welfare into the region to avert grave humanitarian difficulties for vulnerable groups; completion of the reintegration of health facilities and personnel; resolution of the substantial difficulties in the education sector as a whole; improvement of the conditions for return of all displaced persons in conditions of safety, economic security and personal dignity; completion of the establishment of fully functioning local government; and cessation of back-tracking on its commitment to defer conscription for two years for Serbs from the region.
- In the vital area of local policing and the rule of law, the Government of Croatia acknowledges that the Transitional Police Force has not yet demonstrated the professional qualities or inter-ethnic cohesion necessary to police the multi-ethnic communities of the region effectively and impartially. As practical evidence of Croatia's commitment to make reintegration work, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Croatia, Dr. Mate Granic, wrote to me on 6 November to request the continued presence of United Nations civilian police in the Danube region of Croatia following the end of the UNTAES mandate. This initiative is a positive indication that the Government of Croatia accepts its responsibilities for non-discriminatory policing in the post-UNTAES period. The presence of United Nations civilian police will also provide essential reassurance during the period of major two-way population movement, which is expected to continue until the commencement of the new school year in September 1998.
- In the post-UNTAES period, many other international organizations will support Croatia by comprehensively monitoring implementation of commitments and providing reassurance to the population of the region. Local Serbs need reassurance and do not yet trust that central government instructions and intentions will be implemented by all local officials. The probability of incidents in the post-UNTAES period is recognized by all parties and cannot be discounted. Without continued international engagement, there is a clear risk that the termination of UNTAES might be seen in retrospect as having been premature. In this connection, I welcome the deployment throughout Croatia of the long-term mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the increasing involvement of the Commission envisaged under paragraph 11 of the Basic Agreement and the activities of local and international non-governmental organizations. The ongoing presence and support of UNHCR will also be an essential part of the continued involvement of the international community.
- Weighing these considerations carefully, and mindful of the cost to the international community to maintain UNTAES, in particular when its primary functions have been fulfilled, I am of the view that UNTAES should complete its work as originally envisaged. I therefore recommend the termination of UNTAES on 15 January 1998. Until that date, the Transitional Administrator will progressively turn over to the Government of Croatia operational control of all remaining functions in the region, while retaining his authority to intervene and overrule.
- I further recommend that the Security Council establish a support group of 180 civilian police monitors whose task would be to continue to monitor the performance of the Croatian police in the Danube region, particularly in connection with the return of displaced persons. This would include monitoring investigations by the Croatian police of any allegations of police misconduct in connection with the return of displaced persons to the region and the provision of limited on-the-job training to improve the professional capability of the local police. The Government of Croatia has indicated its readiness to provide such a support group with the necessary protection, should the need arise (see S/1997/913, annex).
- The civilian police monitors would be stationed in the main Croatian police headquarters and the 20 Croatian police stations throughout the Danube region and would maintain a 24-hour-a-day coverage of police activities. Three joint mobile patrols would also be established in the region. The headquarters of the support group would be in Vukovar and would operate under the overall responsibility 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. The substantive unit based in Zagreb would be the focus for contacts and liaison with officials of the Government of Croatia on issues relating to the support group. It would also maintain liaison with OSCE, with a view to facilitating, in due course, a smooth transfer of responsibility to that Organization. In order to avoid establishing new administrative structures, I would appoint a senior United Nations official to head both the support group and the United Nations Liaison Office in Zagreb. The Liaison Office would, however, retain its separate functions, as outlined in my predecessor's report to the Security Council of 6 February 1996 (S/1996/83, para. 24).
- An addendum on the financial aspects of the above recommendation will be issued shortly.
- In conclusion, I should like to pay tribute to the Transitional Administrator, Mr. William G. Walker, for his highly professional and dedicated leadership of the United Nations efforts to promote peace, stability and the strengthening of democracy in the UNTAES area. I also wish to commend the civilian and military personnel of UNTAES for their excellent performance, commitment and service to the international community.