Minister Dacic in Prokuplje, attending the laying of the foundation stone for the construction of refugee housing within the Regional Housing Programme

Statement by First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic at the ceremony of laying the foundation stone for the construction of housing in Krusevac for refugees from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, within the implementation of the Regional Housing Programme in the Republic of Serbia

“Dear guests,

Friends of the Regional Housing Programme,

Thank you for being here today, and for your continued interest in, and support of, our efforts aimed at seeking and providing durable solutions for refugees who have left their homes dispersed throughout the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and decided to remain in the Republic of Serbia.

The consequences of the developments at the time are still evident in Serbia. Despite the efforts we have made, with the international community’s assistance, for more than twenty years to provide sustainable solutions and eliminate the consequences of those unfortunate events, the problems are of such proportions that, in the 21st century we still have in our territory close to 30,000 refugees, who have been deprived of some fundamental rights in their countries of origin, including unimpeded access to their property.

Serbia is well aware that resolution of such grave issues requires time and true commitment. In order to put an end to the refugee issues, it is necessary to have cooperation between the states of origin and the receiving states, including readiness to find just and sustainable solutions to all outstanding issues.

The Republic of Serbia has been guided by these particular principles in addressing the refugee issue, offering full support, from the very beginning, to the Sarajevo process whose inextricable part is the Regional Housing Programme. Bearing in mind the refugee needs, the imperative of granting them and protecting their rights, we have persevered in the endeavours to keep the Sarajevo process alive, even at times when it seemed that progress would not be possible to achieve. At the same time, we continued to aspire – within the limits of our possibilities – to the improvement of the status of the persons in need. You will agree that practical assistance, i.e. assistance in addressing vitally important issues, is most effective.

Displacement is a global phenomenon, with a long history, highly topical today. We have learned from experience that, in the long run, providing assistance to victims of war and expulsion encourages prosperity of new generations and stability in all spheres of society. I believe that this will also be the case here in Prokuplje, in this old town on the banks of the Toplica River, which abounds in potential, and was home to and provided accommodation to many. As you may know, I come from the Toplica district, and therefore I attach special importance to the development of this area.

Only two weeks ago, I participated in the ceremony of laying the foundation stone in Sremska Mitrovica for the construction of 40 housing units for refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Croatia; the day before yesterday I attended, at the City Hall, the awarding of 49 contracts for the construction of prefabricated houses for end users residing in the territory of Belgrade, whereas yesterday, I participated in the laying of the foundation stone for the construction of 20 housing units in Krusevac.

That is the underlying reason for our meeting here today, to attend the laying of the foundation stone for the construction of 20 housing units for the beneficiaries of the Regional Housing Programme. It is a confirmation of the fact that we have made yet another important step in the Programme’s implementation, and that this important Programme has traversed the road from idea to reality.

It will not be long before Paracin becomes the construction site for a building with 20 housing units, under the same Subproject 2 of the RHP. The construction of housing units under this Subproject is expected in additional five municipalities, in Vrsac, Bajina Basta, Sid, Sabac and Kikinda. I am making an effort to accept the invitation of each and every one of these municipalities to lay the founding stone, because I am aware of the importance of every solution, and every end user of the Regional Housing Programme.

I wish to recall that the Regional Housing Programme is a joint, perennial programme of the Republic of Serbia, Republic of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, aimed at providing durable housing solutions for some 27,000 most seriously affected refugee families (74,000 persons) in the region, the majority of whom live in the Republic of Serbia, formalized by the ministerial Belgrade Declaration of November 2011. An even greater leap forward was made in April 2012, with the holding of the Donor Conference in Sarajevo. For this reason, I would like to thank all who have participated, over the last five years, in the endeavours to invigorate the RHP, and progress from the period of complex preparations and planning to current construction of housing units, and distribution of rural households, prefabricated houses, including construction materials, to their end users. In this context, I also have in mind the competent institutions, municipalities, bilateral donors and international organizations involved in the RHP implementation. Their efforts, commitment, energy and faith in their work have contributed to the success of the Programme, being their inseparable part.

Last but not lease, I wish to thank all of you – direct Programme beneficiaries for your enormous perseverance and patience. I hope that the period of insecurity, fear and concern is behind us for good. I wish you success, joy and prosperity in your new homes, in this new chapter of your lives. I trust and believe that, after a long period of uncertainty while living as refugees, you will be able to achieve your life goals in this municipality, increasingly developing day after day.”