OSCE praises Croatia's legal reforms, refugee rehabilitation
"In the refugees problem, we have advanced very much," said OSCE chief of mission in Croatia Jorge Fuentes, while presenting an annual report.
He said the OSCE mission here could close shortly. OSCE chairman, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, earlier this month said he supported winding up the mission in Croatia by the end of this year.
The future of the mission will be decided by the OSCE ministerial council in November.
Fuentes said Croatia had completed most of its obligations regarding refugees, adding that remaining issues needed to be resolved bilaterally with Serbia, where 80,000 ethnic Serb refugees still live.
These include possible compensation for former holders of tenancy rights in the-then communist state-owned properties who do not want to return to Croatia.
The OSCE will also monitor government plans to construct 1,400 apartments for Serb returnees this year and another 5,600 by the end of 2009.
Despite progress in judicial reforms and fairer war crimes trials, "further progress is needed to insure even-handed and impartial accountability, including enhanced inter-state judicial cooperation," Fuentes said.
Fuentes said that despite the possible closure of the mission, the OSCE will continue monitoring war crimes trials before local courts.
Reform of the judiciary and the return of ethnic Serb refugees are key conditions Croatia has to meet to join the European Union.
The Balkan country hopes to join the 25-nation-bloc by the end of the decade.
Croatia's proclamation of independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 sparked a four-year war with Serb rebels who occupied one third of its territory.
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