Croatia and Serbia to pursue war reparations

25/02/2014

Experts said reparations are important to reconciliation in the region.

By Kruno Kartus and Bojana Milovanovic for Southeast European Times in Zagreb and Belgrade -- 25/02/14

photo

Davor Stier (centre), European Parliament member from the Croatian Democratic Union, rasied the issue of war reparations with EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule. [Facebook/Davor Stier]

Croatia and Serbia may soon begin negotiations on paying reparations for material damages in the 1991-95 war in Croatia, officials said.

The legal basis for this process is the 1996 agreement on normalisation of relations signed by Croatia and the then-Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, consisting of Serbia and Montenegro.

Article 7 of the agreement stipulates the two countries should enter another agreement on compensation for all destroyed, damaged or missing property six months after the signing of the document.

But such an agreement was never concluded.

Article 7 also stipulates the agreement on compensation will be "determined by methods of exercising the right to just compensation, which does not involve court proceedings."

As Croatia became an EU member last year and Serbia opened accession negotiations last month, Croatian European Parliament representatives led by Davor Stier of the Croatian Democratic Union asked the European Commission to update the 1996 agreement.

"We believe it is important that the EU insists on adhering to international treaties such as that shown on the example of European arrest warrant. So we asked Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule to what extent the European Commission emphasised the importance of respecting the agreement on normalisation of relations, with particular emphasis on the application of article 7," Stier told SETimes.

Croatia's state audit for inventory and assessment of war damages assessed the direct war damages in the country between 1990 and 1999 at 32 billion euros.

The audit included the period to 1999 because of indirect damage incurred as a result of the war including the economy, public services, cultural and natural resources, citizens' goods, as well as the costs of the war, life and health of the people as well as non-maintenance costs.

During the 1991-95 conflict, more than 13,500 people were killed or disappeared, another 37,000 were injured, 550,000 were displaced within Croatia while 150,000 went in exile abroad.

The Serbian government said war reparations between Serbia and Croatia should be resolved through discussions and agreement.

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"The issue of war reparations will be more precisely defined after the proceedings pertaining to the mutual genocide lawsuits by Croatia and Serbia before the International Court of Justice have wrapped up, and the first hearing is expected to take place on March 3rd. Either way, that question must not put a dent in relations between the two states or slow down Serbia's EU integration," the Serbian government's media office said in a statement released to SETimes.

Reparations are also important for reconciliation in the region, said Natasa Kandic, director of the Humanitarian Law Fund in Belgrade.

"That chapter must be closed, and then things should move forward," Kandic told SETimes.

What can Serbia and Croatia do to reconcile material damage claims incurred during the 1991-95 conflict? Share your opinion in the comments space.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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