Regional governments increase efforts to end illegal building

23/01/2014

Croatia aims to have 80 percent of its illegal buildings either legalised or demolished by 2015.

By Kruno Kartus for Southeast European Times in Osijek -- 23/01/14

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The Serbian Ministry of Construction said that there are about 1.3 million illegal structures in the country. [Nikola Barbutov/SETimes]

Countries in the region are passing stronger laws to regulate construction and eliminate illegal buildings -- an effort to meet EU standards and help the Balkans integrate into European institutions.

Buildings that were constructed without the necessary permits are considered illegal. Over the past six months, Croatia has analysed 800,000 requests from building owners to legalise houses, vacation homes and other buildings that were unlawfully constructed.

Although it can be an expensive process, legalising properties brings many benefits. The government can destroy any building that does not have proper documentation, and legal buildings can be sold more easily at a higher price.

"The plan is to get at least 80 percent of claims resolved by the end of 2015. With good organisation and dedicated work we believe that this is a realistic target," Durdica Čočić, a spokesperson for the ministry of construction, told SETimes.

It is not clear how many buildings will have to be demolished, but the ministry noted that it has about 20 illegal buildings destroyed each month.

"More than 70 percent of illegal structures are removed by investors or owners themselves. Priority is given to illegal structures that were built after June 21st, 2011, which were built in violation of the spatial plan," Čočić said.

A group of 17 family farms in the Petrinja area have received the technical documentation they need to legalise agricultural buildings on their property under a project co-financed by the UN Development Programme and the Petrinja municipality.

Under the programme, which started in October 2012, the UN and the municipality created a fund of more than 26,000 euros to pay for necessary documentation, which includes the blueprints of illegally constructed buildings.

The agreements signed with the town oblige the recipients to complete the process of legalisation, which is a prerequisite to receive funding.

"This project is very important. If the farm buildings do not have legal status, the farms won't be eligible for funding," Petrinja Mayor Željko Nenadić told SETimes.

The Serbian Ministry of Construction said there are about 1.3 million illegally built structures in the country. More than 700,000 applications for legalisation have been submitted.

The EU Delegation in Belgrade said Serbia will have to completely solve the problem of illegally constructed buildings to meet the criteria for full membership in the EU, and its activities in this area will be closely monitored during membership negotiations.

"In Serbia, there are an unacceptably large number of illegal buildings. We hope the recently adopted legalisation law will improve the situation in this area. Regulations are good, now they should be applied," the EU delegation said in a statement for SETimes.

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The legalisation law, which was adopted in October, allows for the issuance of construction and use permits for the illegally built facilities, with the payment of a land development fee to local governments.

"It's time to resolve all this, we are all burdened by this problem, both us and the state," Marko Milicevic, a resident of the Belgrade suburb of Kaludjerica, told SETimes. "I hope that the fees will not be too high and that I will finally be able to legalise my house, which I built 20 years ago."

Correspondent Bojana Milovanović in Belgrade contributed to this report.

What can regional countries do to ensure that future building projects are legal? Share your thoughts below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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