Remarks by Commissioner Štefan Füle at the press conference following the International Donors Conference on Durable Solutions for Refugees and Displaced Persons

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s conference is important in many respects:

  • it is a clear sign that the region wishes to leave the past behind, without forgetting it and move on towards the future as a good European neighbours.

  • it is an excellent shining example of effective regional cooperation of the 4 countries involved

  • it also shows that the commitments of the regional cooperation delivers to the people’s needs of the countries concerned

  • regional cooperation is a clear step forward in the European integration process and refugee returns is one of the pillars of regional cooperation.

The Regional Housing Programme will benefit some 74,000 refugees and displaced persons in those four countries. This may be considered a model for the resolution of long-lasting refugee and displacement crises worldwide.

The European Union is strongly committed and together with the international community will support this flagship regional initiative. I am proud to announce that the Union has pledged to devote some 230 million Euro over the next five years, which is a part of the amount requested by the international donors.

I want to thank the international donors for the pledges they have made, for an initial amount of more than 31 million with some indications that a similar amount will be available during the remaining period of the Programme. The Commission will not miss the opportunity to make the point that the international support is indeed needed throughout the period of implementation.

The task ahead is huge and challenging and we can only succeed by joining forces and pooling our resources. The Commission, together with other international stakeholders, stands firmly behind with the Partner Countries to ensure adequate implementation of the Programme.

Let me say few word on another important issue: Croatia. The Commission has today adopted the monitoring report on Croatia’s accession preparations. The report shows that Croatia is on track. I am convinced that Zagreb will take all the final steps necessary to ensure that the country is fully prepared for membership, in the interest of Croatia and the EU.

We want Croatia to be a success story and we will continue its close monitoring up to the accession. Although in the finishing stage before EU entry, Croatia’s hard work in credibly preparing for the membership did not finish with the signature of the Accession Treaty but continues right up until the date of entry – July 2013.