Civil aspects of the Dayton and Erdut Agreements

 

Doc. 7591

25 June 1996

 

OPINION[1]

Rapporteur: Mr LACOUR, France, Liberal, Democratic and Reformers' Group


1. Introduction

1.         The Assembly's initiative (Order No. 521 (1996)) to include a representative of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development in its fact-finding visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia from 4 to 9 June 1996 proved to be extremely useful.  For agriculture is a major part of the economy in the former Yugoslavia.  This opinion on Mr Iwi_ski's excellent and highly informative report for the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography will not go into the details which highlighted the numerous difficulties and serious and very real dangers in establishing lasting peace in this federation which remains highly unstable.  These aspects are very well described in Mr Iwi_ski's report.

            The purpose of this opinion is rather to draw the Assembly's attention to the key role that the agro-food and forestry sectors can play in improving food security, supplying materials (timber) for repairing and building houses and in creating jobs.  As rapporteur, I would like to thank Mr Vinet and Mr Bral, Director of the Office responsible for organising development projects on behalf of the World Bank and the FAO, who provided considerable help in preparing the visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.

2. The rural world and agriculture

2.         Firstly, agriculture remains productive, and has the potential for economic development which could act as a positive curb on the rural exodus which is currently wreaking havoc in this sector, following a barbarous and savage war which has destroyed many farms, which used to provide work often on a part-time basis for many people who now find themselves without work in the towns.

3.         In many sectors, the economy remains paralysed, or has been destroyed, and economic recovery will be a long and difficult process, because of the lack of trust and security.  Moreover, long-standing ancestral resentment and impulses are still bubbling just beneath the surface.

4.         One solution stands out from a number of relatively fast ways of creating jobs:  revitalising the land and reconstructing farms.

5.         Agriculture has always played a key role in daily life in Bosnia-Herzegovina, employing nearly 20% of the pre-war labour force full-time and at least an equal number part-time.  Even before the war, Bosnia-Herzegovina had to import between a third and a half of its basic foodstuffs (mainly from the Yugoslav republics).  The small private farms which accounted for practically the whole sector and held 94% of the land, were fairly backward because the government had almost completely neglected the private sector.

6.         The separation of Bosnia-Herzegovina from the former Yugoslavia and its division, due to contending factions, had a negative effect on the agricultural sector.  The consequences of the war have been huge.  The normal food distribution system has disappeared and there was a major breakdown in production caused by large scale movements of people since 1992 and damage to agricultural equipment, cattle, crops and the distribution of inputs.  Agricultural resources essential for food production and conservation are scarce and are too expensive for the deprived families who need them.  These include high quality seed, fertilisers, chemical products, hand tools, spare parts, petrol, food preservatives and veterinary medicines.

3. Food security

7.         At the beginning of 1996, between 2,5 and 3 million people in the former Yugoslavia were in need of food aid.

8.         If peaceful conditions persist, hundreds of thousands of people displaced within Bosnia or under temporary refugee status abroad are expected to resettle in their homes or repatriate back to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

9.         The situation of the 180 000 people who live in Eastern Slavonia remains unresolved, and the 380 000 refugees and displaced persons in Croatia (excluding Eastern Slavonia) will continue to need some aid, as will a large number of the more than 600 000 refugees living in Serbia and Montenegro.

10.        Donors contributing to the reconstruction of Bosnia-Herzegovina have set up a task force for aid to the agro-food and forestry sectors.  At its meeting of 26 April 1996, this group considered that food aid for the rest of 1996 should remain at the same level as before.  Nevertheless, the experts emphasised the need to reduce this aid quickly, by investing in the reconstruction and development of the agro-food sector.  Emergency food aid for 1996 is US$ 240 million, plus US$ 6,4 million for seed, fertilisers and pesticides.

4. Agriculture and forests

11.        In war-affected areas, the fields have often been mined and will need to be cleared before they can be recultivated or used for grazing.

12.        The livestock in these areas has suffered serious depletion or even been totally destroyed.  Re-establishing it will take years.

13.        The consequences for certain field-crop production or fruit production could also take decades to repair.

14.        The food industry has suffered equally, some production has been totally closed down, whereas in other cases production equipment has been damaged and buildings destroyed.

15.        A considerable number of the refugees and displaced persons are peasants and their families who have left their farms often in ruins.

16.        Aid earmarked for the reconstruction and development of the agro-food and forestry sectors in Bosnia-Herzegovina is US$ 30 million for 1996.  The amount set aside for emergency projects in these sectors by the World Bank (10 May 1996) is US$ 50 million for the reconstruction of farms and US$ 30 million for forestry.

17.        As rapporteur, my view is that the earliest possible implementation of many renovation projects would be the first step towards relieving unemployment, while at the same time helping to re‑establish small and medium business.

18.        The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) seems, of all the United Nations agencies, to have demonstrated the most imagination in concentrating on small-scale projects, and next spring will send a large number of sheep and cattle, while the European Union, for its part, has given the Bosnian Serbs initial aid of US$ 2 million for the reconstruction of agricultural systems and the replacement of livestock.

19.        At the same time, the aid project investing in forests and the rational use of timber (for rebuilding houses) has proved extremely successful.

20.        The Bosnians are waiting for these funds with impatience and a certain measure of despair.

21.        However, satisfactory distribution would require more precise information and in particular vital co‑ordination between all the donors and officials which is still lacking.

22.        Therefore, our Assembly, through its Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development can and, in my view has a duty to, contribute to laying the foundations, which for the time being is all the more complicated because the political situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina and its surrounding states is still not very clear.

23.        Croatia is experiencing similar difficulties, which are aggravated in the Vukovar region, for example, by the longer-term process of territorial redistribution and the freeze on oil resources, to which both the former warring parties, Serbs and Croatians lay claim.

24.        In Croatia, the fertile land of the vast valley is still waiting to be farmed again, which is essential if the dormant agro-food sector is to be restored to its former position.

25.        Here again, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development can play an important role, in providing expertise, advice and suggestions, within the framework of the Erdut Agreements, signed on 12 November 1995 between the Croatian Government and the separatist Serbs of Eastern Slavonia.

5. Conclusion

26.        In conclusion, it is undeniable that agriculture and rural development represent, in all the territories of the former Yugoslavia, an important factor for civil peace, which can help to restore trust and regenerate social unity.  The Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development plans to organise a parliamentary hearing at the end of October 1996 in order to gather information on the situation regarding reconstruction and development of the agro-food and forestry sectors.  It will aim to present a report on the priorities which need to be established for projects in these sectors in the future.

Proposed amendment

            The Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development considers that donors should pay particular attention to the agro-food and forestry sectors because of their immediate importance for food security, the construction of new housing, the repair of old or damaged housing and job creation.  Therefore, the committee proposes the addition of a new paragraph after paragraph 7 of the preliminary draft recommendation, to read as follows:

"8.        The agro-food and forestry sectors can play a crucial role in improving food security, providing materials (timber) for the repair and construction of housing and in creating jobs and are consequently among the priorities for reconstruction".


            Reporting Committee: Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography (Doc. 7588).

            Committees for opinion: Committee on Economic Affairs and Development and Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

            Origin: Order No. 521 (1996).

            Draft opinion approved on 25 June 1996.

            Secretary to the committee: Mr Lervik.


[1]. By the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.