Citizenship Reform: Erdut Agreement

ERDUT AGREEMENT, ARTICLE 7:

All persons have the right to return freely to their place of residence in the region and to live there in conditions of security. All persons who have left the region or who have come to the region with previous permanent residence in Croatia have the right to live in the region.

Implementation History

1995

No Implementation

Approximately 200,000 Croatian Serbs fled to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia following the offenses by the Croatian military in the summer of 1995. The Erdut Agreement stipulates that those former Croatians who fled are allowed to return to Croatia and reclaim their property. Verifying prior residency in Croatia, as well as verifying property ownership requires identify documents, many of which, were issued during the period between 1992 and 1995 in which Serbs controlled a third of Croatia as the sovereign Republic of Serb Krajina. Hence, the Transitional Administration faced the task of verifying prior Croatian citizenship, residency and property ownership and issuing new Croatian identify documents to those that qualify. Citizen reform initiation does not take place in 1995. 

1996

Intermediate Implementation

The Government of Croatia passes legislation and makes announcements that incite Croatians to migrate to the former Serb controlled territory in hopes of gaining property. A Joint Implementation Committee on Civilian Administration was established and reached an agreement on the centralized issuance of essential identity documents by Croatian officials for a period of 2 months, to begin in August 1996 in three locales.1 By the end of August 1996, UNTAES reports advances in the centralized issuance of Croatian legal documents such as citizenship papers, birth certificates, identity cards and passports, however, the process is slow because the Croatian police want to interview all those seeking new papers. A review of the document processing centers opened by UNTAES at Ilok, Vukovar, Batina and Lua, reveals that they are falling far short of meeting the demand for identity documents. It is reported that roughly one-third of the applicants were Serbs at this point in the process.2 On 19 September, the Transitional Administrator and the Prime Minister of Croatia had a meeting to discuss “disturbing cases of inadequate cooperation, including undue delays in processing applications for Croatian citizenship and other documents.”3  Towards the end of September 1996, UNTAES reports that out of more than 11,500 applicants that submitted an application for a Croatian identity document, only 2,768 documents had been received by the applicants. Thus, 75 percent of citizenship documents were not processed for the applicants who needed them to return by the end of the first year following the peace agreement. Meanwhile, in 1995 and 1996, the GoC passes legislation that puts a time limit on returning refugees to reclaim their property and encourages the occupation of Serb homes by Croatians.4

  • 1. "Report of the Secretary-General on UNTAES," United Nations (S/1996/622).
  • 2. "Report of the Secretary-General on UNTAES," United Nations (S/1996/705).
  • 3. "Report of the Secretary-General on UNTAES," United Nations (S/1996/821).
  • 4. Ibid.
1997

Intermediate Implementation

By 10 February, there were 21 Croatian Government document offices in operation and they are producing collectively up to 8,000 documents a week. In January, UNTAES and the GoC established procedures for voter registration based on the issuance of Croatian documents in the region. UNTAES indicated in its February report that it cannot determine the percentage of the eligible voting population that has received identity documents. The UN also reports that they have become aware that the number of identity documents processed, as reported by the GoC, do not distinguish between documents issued and documents denied to applicants.5 By the end of December 1997, 145,000 new citizenship papers and 126,000 new passports had been processed. The Administrative Court, as of December 1997, had not yet resolved around 900 appeals against denials of citizenship (UNTAES: Recent Development, 22 December 1997). Despite the urging of UNTAES officials, the Government of Croatia (GoC) refuses to recognize Serb documents dating back to 1991, such as birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates and drivers licenses. This generated untold problems for those individuals – mostly Serbs— as they try to obtain employment, health care, property, and rehabilitation assistance.6

 

  • 5. "Report of the Secretary-General on UNTAES," United Nations (S/1997/148), February 24, 1997.
  • 6. "Report of the Secretary-General on UNTAES," United Nations (S/1997/487), June 23, 1997.
1998

Intermediate Implementation

The GoC announces almost three years after the Erdut Basic Agreement that a new law would be passed to make it less difficult for Serb refugees to get new citizenship documents. According to the foreign ministry spokesperson (Trkanjec), “This document is an important step forward in the return process. The biggest change is that people will be able to get the necessary documents for return from Croatian embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions”. The story goes on to say that after applying for new documents, the refugees can “visit” their homes while they wait for their official documents to be processed.7 Serbian associations protest the elections in Croatia in which hundreds of thousands of Serb returnees are denied the right to vote based on their outdated citizenship documents. The Serbian group issued a statement that condemns the Croatian government for evicting Serbs from the towns and areas where they have lived for centuries and preventing them from returning by “denying their right to identification documents.”8 

  • 7. "Croatia adopts document to aid return of Serb refugees," Agence france presse, March 31, 1998.
  • 8. "Croatian Serb refugees protest against denial of voting rights," BBC Summary of World Broadcast, September 12, 1998.
1999

Intermediate Implementation

UNTAES formally ends its mandate in Croatia on 15 January 1998.9 After the termination of the UN Transitional Administration, no further information on the processing of citizenship documents could be found.

  • 9. "UNTAES: Brief Chronology."
2000

Intermediate Implementation

After the termination of the UN Transitional Administration, no further information on the processing of citizenship documents could be found.

2001

Intermediate Implementation

No further developments observed.

2002

Intermediate Implementation

No further developments observed.

2003

Intermediate Implementation

No further developments observed.

2004

Intermediate Implementation

No further developments observed.

2005

Intermediate Implementation

No further developments observed.