|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at the announcement of the Refugee Return Declaration
Banski Dvor, Bosnia and Herzegovina, March 9, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am very pleased to join Prime Minister Dodik again, as well as my distinguished counterparts from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
I welcome enthusiastically their Joint Declaration committing each government to step up sharply the pace of returns and tear down quickly bureaucratic and other obstacles to them.
In my seven years of visiting this region, I have often run into refugees, the international homeless basically, who have no place to be. And when I've asked them where they live or where their houses are, they say they don't know. But what is true is that everyone is living in the wrong house, and what ultimately is the problem is there is no house at the end that is suitable for them to live in.
In that spirit, I am pleased to announce that, in coordination with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the United States will provide $2 million to finance the reconstruction of 100 presently unoccupied houses on each side of the border.
This initiative will make possible the largest single two way return of refugees over the Sava since Dayton.
It will ease the financial challenge faced by these governments as they enter a period of what we hope will be sustained cooperation.
And it shows that the Southeast Europe Stability Pact, under the framework of which these funds will be provided, can make a decisive difference in the lives of people and families.
In addition, the President's budget includes a request for $15 million in supplemental funds to support Croatia's Stability Pact proposals for returning 16,500 refugees.
Before closing, I'd like to quote briefly from a recent interview with this city's Catholic Bishop, the Reverend Dr. Franco Komarica: "The atmosphere in the area of Banja Luka has mellowed," he said. "Local Serbs are much more open toward their [former] neighbors. They are asking: when will you finally return?; we have had enough madness…People in Bosnia and Herzegovina have lived among each other for generations."
Today, thanks to the sound leadership from Prime Minister Dodik, Croatia's new government, and Bosnian authorities, we take another step away from past madness. And by so doing, bring refugees a step closer to home; and the region, a step closer to the new Europe. I would like to reaffirm, in closing, that the U.S. support for a democratic, vibrant and successful Republika Srpska is an essential component of a successful, multi-ethnic Bosnia-Herzegovina. That is our policy position. Thank you so very much.
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