Croatian President Stjepan Mesic and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres held talks in Zagreb on Monday focusing on the issue of refugee return and efforts to deal with problems encountered by refugees in the area of ex-Yugoslavia.
Guterres met President Mesic at the beginning of his first Southeast European tour. "The High Commissioner is aware that Croatia has problems because of its indebtedness, but for Croatia, the issue of refugees and displaced people is also a human issue,"President Mesic told reporters after the talks, adding that Croatia was able and wanted to deal with that problem.
It is important for Croatia that refugees return to their homes, President Mesic said. He went on to say that Croatian authorities could not give back tenancy rights to former tenancy rights holders, but that they could provide for those wishing to return in a different way.
Guterres presented a proposal to establish a fund for refugee return in the area of ex-Yugoslavia, covering Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which would receive financial assistance from the international community and provide housing for refugees and work on their social integration.
He recalled that formerly Croatia had coped with one million refugees, which he said was something he wanted to congratulate it on. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that he was encouraged by the talks held with the Croatian officials, because they had expressed readiness to ensure a sustainable refugee return.
There is still much left to be done in that regard in the near future, and UNHCR is ready to help in dealing with that problem, he said.