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Zagreb, 19 March 1996

Dear Mr. Commissioner,

First of all, allow me to thank you for the suggestions and recommendations contained in your letter of 22 February 1996. They represent a most valuable input and I can assure you that they will be given due consideration in our future activities regarding the minority related issues. In that respect, let me inform you about the recent developments in the fields that you have kindly pointed out.

As you are surely aware, on 11 March 1996 Mr Milan Milutinovi_, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, paid a return visit to Zagreb. The two delegations had a fruitful discussion, touched upon a number of issues and reached several agreements. We have also agreed to extend our full support to the implementation of the Basic Agreement on Eastern Slavonia, Baranya and Western Sirmium, UNTAES and the Transitional Administrator, general Klein. During the meeting I strongly emphasised the urgency of solving the question of missing and detained persons, and asked for the assistance of FRY in solving this matter with the Bosnian Serb authorities.

Mr Milutinovi_ assured me of his understanding of the gravity of this situation and promised to convey our requests to the Yugoslav officials dealing with this question.

Furthermore, Miister Milutinovi_ restated the position of his Government that Eastern Slavonia, Baranya and Western Sirmium is indeed an integral part of the sovereign Croatian territory. At the end of the meeting, Mr Milutinovi_ and myself signed the agreed minutes on the contents of the agreements on opening of the Adriatic pipeline, as well as on performing consular functions on our respective offices in Zagreb and Belgrade. At the same time, the ministers of transport signed the agreed minutes on air and railway traffic, telecommunications and the opening of the Zagreb-Belgrade highway.

Thus, we have made another decisive step towards the normalization of the relations between our countries.

However, I must emphasize that the mutual recognition between the Republic of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia within their internationally recognized borders remains the basic prerequisite for establishing the full normalization, and I am sure that we shall address this issue in the immediate future.

Mr Commissioner,

I would also like to bring you up to date regarding other issues mentioned in your letter. Withing the framework of measures designed to facilitate the return of refugees and displaced persons, I fully agree with you that housing is of the utmost importance. In that respect, the Republic of Croatia is attaching great significance to the reconstruction of the war damaged areas. The reconstruction is taking place in the total of 282 places in 13 of altogether 21 Croatian counties. The number of family houses undergoing reconstruction amounts to 130,000 housing units, of which 33,000 housing units of 5th and 6th category of damage (torn down). The total of 4,725 houses have already been reconstructed up to the supporting structure, roof truss, doors and windows. In 1995, ca. 6,000 workers were involved in reconstruction, both on site and in production of building materials and works were completed in the amount of 462,832,455.17 kunas. At the same time, 12 schools have been reconstructed, 18 schools are under reconstruction, reconstruction of 19 schools is being prepared and 46 companies are involved in the reconstruction of schools. Up to 31 December 1995, we spent 13,717,051.00 kunas for the reconstruction of schools.

Furthermore, 20 facilities with ca. 600 flats are reconstructed or are under reconstruction, and the reconstruction of further 60 facilities with ca. 1,500 flats is being prepared. The costs for this part of the reconstruction amount to 4,848,912.00 kunas. Additionally, the Republic of Croatia invested further 87,483,877.60 kunas in the reconstruction of 5 infrastructural facilities, 4,977.188.36 kunas in the so-called "paint and glass" actions, 8,427.283 kunas were given to the citizens for the reconstruction of houses between the 1st and 4th damage category and 23,035,927 kunas were given to 546 owners for the interior decoration of reconstructed houses.

Being aware of the considerations expressed in your letter regarding the return of the Croatian citizens of Serb nationality, the Republic of Croatia is embarking on reconstruction projects taking into account the multiethnic structure of the area. For example, the developments in Western Slavonia are as follows: in Nova Gradiška rebuilding of 27 houses, of which 17 are Serb-owned, is to be completed soon; in Medari 17 have been rebuilt, of which only for owned by Croats; in Maši_ 38, mostly Serb-owned; in Donji Bogi_evci 17, of which 11 Serbian; in Poljane 17, of which 12 Serbian etc.

Referring to your suggestions regarding the legal issues, let me inform you that up to 11 March 1996 14,000 requests for return were filed, of which 6,125 with complete documentation. For 3,120 persons the right to return and reunification of families was already granted.

Parallely, regarding the criminal acts committed after the operations "Flash and Storm", up to 13 March 1996 investigation has been opened against 257 persons, first-instance proceedings have been completed against 649 perpetrators and 14 persons were convicted.

In the liberated areas, up to the same date 3,940 requests for the continuation of payment of pensions and invalid pensions were filed, of which 3,472 have already been resolved.

Moreover, the deliberations regarding the general amnesty are underway - however, the outcome depends largely on the progress in solving the already mentioned question of the missing and detained persons, the issue to which my Government, as well as the Croatian public, attaches the greatest importance.

Finally, Mr. Commissioner, let me add a few general remarks. The Republic of Croatia has repeatedly agreed to host the OSCE Long Duration Mission and the discussions regarding its establishment and mandate are underway within the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna. To this preceded a joint OSCE and Council of Europe Mission, led by Ambassador Mario Sica, which visited Croatia on 20 - 23 February 1996. The concerns of my Government, but also the democratic progress we have achieved, are reflected in their report. I am convinced that, once established, the OSCE Mission will contribute to further strengthening of democracy and democratic institutions in Croatia, promote and facilitate peaceful reintegration of both people and territory, as well as enhance the protection of human and minority rights, to which, I am sure, you will also contribute substantially.

On the other hand, the Republic of Croatia is on the way to becoming the full member of the Council of Europe and in that regard the President of the Republic of Croatia, Dr. Franjo Tudman, and the President of the Parliament, Dr. Vlatko Pavleti_, signed on 15 March 1996 to the formal undertaking of the commitments, expressing thus the willingness of Croatia to fulfil the criteria for accession to the Council of Europe. Among the commitments that might be of special interest to you, there is the undertaking to sign the European Convention of Human Rights at the moment of accession, as well as the obligation to sign and ratify within one year from the time of accession the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter on Local Self-Government and the Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. I have stressed merely the legal framework for the protection of human and minority rights, but it is my firm belief that all the commitments undertaken represent the highest democratic and civilization standards that Croatia is prepared to honour and implement.

I hope that this letter shall contribute to your valuable activities, your Excellency, and I am convinced that our exchange shall continued in the future. In the meantime I remain,

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Mate Grani_