“Solving the problems of displaced people is key for progress in Kosovo and the Western Balkans” says the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) at the launch of the report Current challenges for returns in the Western Balkans in Dubrovnik.

ECRE and local NGOs believe that an urgent resolution of the key concerns identified in this report is crucial for political, economic and social progress in the Western Balkans. To make progress in resolving many of the outstanding problems for the remaining displaced populations, ECRE and local partner organisations call for the full implementation Annex G of the 2004 Vienna Agreement on Succession Issues and of the 2005 Sarajevo Declaration on Returns.

Governments in the region should urgently conclude the process of developing National Action Plans and a Joint Implementation Matrix under the Sarajevo Declaration. Addressing outstanding concerns in a just and timely way with regard to occupancy and tenancy rights and the convalidation of working years as well the creation of socio-economic conditions to improve the climate for (re)integration of returnees, refugees and IDPs and their acceptance should remain key priorities.

In relation to returns of persons from Western Europe, EU Member States and Western Balkan countries should cooperate closely. Just sending people back through readmission agreements without any support will only increase tensions and add to the enormous social and economic problems. Instead, co-operation should take place in a spirit of solidarity and should also include the provision of financial assistance to facilitate the reintegration of returnees from Western Europe.

Finally, ECRE and local NGOs urge all parties to maximise their efforts to prevent new displacements of people taking place in Kosovo and settle the question of return of IDP populations in places of origin or former residence. A durable solution in the form of support for local integration should be made available to those IDP populations who make an informed and independent decision not to return to their homes.

The full text of the report is available at: 

http://www.ecre.org/files/ECRE_Returns_Report.pdf