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UN: Nearly One Million Still Uprooted From Former Yugoslav Conflicts

The newly-appointed head of the Balkan Stability Pact, Erhard Busek, said the prevention of conflict in the region is linked to the fate of an estimated one million people who remain uprooted as a result of war. The Balkan Stability Pact was formed in 1999 to promote economic development and democracy.

Erhard Busek met with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to discuss the return of refugees and internally displaced people to the homes they abandoned during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. The Balkan Stability Pact head says a lot has been achieved since the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina ended more than six years ago. He notes an estimated two million people have returned to their homes, but adds while this is good, it is not enough.

"It is not only necessary to bring back the refugees, but also to give them the chance for a stable existence, a perspective," he said. "This is focusing on housing, but also on employment. That is of big importance in this context and I think quite necessary."

The Balkan Stability Pact has 45 member countries, including all the nations in the region and major donors such as the European Union, the United States, Canada and Japan.

The U.N. says close to one million people are still uprooted by the series of conflicts which left parts of former Yugoslavia in ruins. Donor countries have pledged $2 billion for humanitarian and development needs. But, the U.N. Refugee Agency's Regional Coordinator for South-East Europe, Werner Blatter, says a lot of the money backing up these pledges is not yet in. Mr. Blatter says funds are needed now to make the return of refugees a reality.

"If the international community and the countries in the region do not succeed to assure sustainability, many of today's displaced or returned will vote with their feet and will come to Western Europe as illegals, not as asylum seekers. They will come as illegals," he said.

Mr. Blatter said the European region has a responsibility to prevent that and to make sure those who are returning or displaced can lead normal, dignified lives.