Inter-ethnic/State Relations: Erdut Agreement

ERDUT AGREEMENT, ARTICLE 12:

Not later than 30 days before the end of the transitional period, elections for all local government bodies, including for municipalities, districts, and counties, as well as the right of the Serbian community to appoint a joint Council of municipalities, shall be organized by the Transitional Administration. International organizations and institutions (e.g., the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the United Nations) and interested states are requested to oversee the elections.

Implementation History

1995

No Implementation

The Erdut Basic Agreement called for the right to establish a joint council of Serbian municipalities. The importance and purpose of this organization, from the Serbian perspective, stems from their demographic situation with Croatia. In terms of Croatian elections, a municipality is considered a small area or township with a county; there are, on average, 6 or 7 municipalities within a county. Serbs do not have an electoral majority in any single county in Croatia. They do, however, have a majority in several municipalities. Serbian sources make it clear that the purpose of this organization is to give those municipalities a greater voice - vis a vis the Government of Croatia (GoC). This did not happen in 1995.

1996

No Implementation

While the Basic Agreement is short on details regarding the Joint Council, UNTAES treats the establishment of the Joint Council as a critical part of the overall agreement. Indeed, Serbian nationalist would later obstruct progress on certain provisions, contingent, upon the implementation of the Joint Council of Municipalities. In October 1996, it was reported by the UN Transitional Administration that Serb leaders were trying to block progress on the creation of other Joint Implementation Committees and other projects, until there was more focus on the “status and functions of the Serb community’s joint Council of Municipalities.”1 The statements of the Serb leaders make it clear that by “joint” they mean a partnership or collective of Serbian townships.

  • 1. "Report of the Secretary-General on UNTAES," United Nations (S/1996/821), October 1,1 996.
1997

Minimum Implementation

According to a report by UNTAES, it held negotiations with the Government of Croatia (GOC) regarding the “implementation” of the “Organization of the Joint Council of Municipalities” on 23 May 1997.2 It was reported by UNTAES that “the Joint Council on Municipalities was registered under Croatian law” in August of 1997. The Founding Charter of the Joint Council of Municipalities was signed on 15 July 1997 and witnessed by the head of UNTAES, Jacques Paul Klein. 3

  • 2. "Recent Developments," UNTAES, December 22, 1997.
  • 3. Ibid.
1998

Intermediate Implementation

The Joint Council appears to have become operational in 1998 when it began to receive funding from the GoC. The leaders of the Council are elected and meet three times a year with the President of Croatia. After one meeting, the President of Croatia reported that was committed to working with the Joint Council of Municipalities in order to “strengthen good inter-ethnic relations” and to build “bridges of cooperation” between Croatian and Serbian communities. 4

As for the functions of the organization, one book on Croatian electoral politics at the local level referred to the Joint Council as “a body that addresses the interests of the Serbian national community”. The organization is registered as a civil association with the GOC and is funded by the GoC.5

According to materials from the Joint Council’s website, 6 the organization is an association of local Serbian governments that works on behalf of the Serbian communities that make up its membership. It appears to be involved in outreach and advocacy for Serbians, and the larger Serbian community, by acting as an intermediary between the GoC and Serb communities. The Joint Council of Municipalities is frequently mentioned in the reports of NGOs as providing assistance to the NGOs on issues related to Serbian communities. 7

  • 4. "Amnesty and the Serbian Minority," Vijesti, March 25, 2011.
  • 5. Stjepan Ivanisevic et al.. “Local Government in Croatia,” in Local Governments in Central and Eastern Europe, ed. Andrew Coulson and Adrian Campbell (London: Routledge, 2007), 183- 240.
  • 6. www.zvo.hr.
  • 7. "Analysis of the Access to Housing Care by Refugees," OSCE Mission to Serbia, 2008.
1998

Intermediate Implementation

No further developments observed.

2000

Intermediate Implementation

No further developments observed.

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.