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Around 450 people got their new homes today in Berane, thanks to the Regional Housing Programme in Montenegro. These are displaced individuals from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia, as well as internally displaced individuals from Kosovo who have, until now, lived in collective or rented accommodations. They were ceremonially handed over the keys to 94 new apartments, whose construction cost nearly €4 million.
Mihailo Vujosevic from Djakovica, who has lived in a collective accommodation centre with his wife and four children for the past 20 years, received keys to the new apartment.
"Solving the housing issue is a great achievement. Today, with your help, a new chapter begins in our lives, which gives us the strength and the will to continue with our efforts. Thank you," he said.
The Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Kemal Purisic, whose department is implementing this programme, stressed that resolving the housing issue for displaced and internally displaced individuals ensures their full integration into the Montenegrin society.
"I am pleased that regional cooperation, in order to find lasting and sustainable solutions for thousands of displaced and internally displaced persons living in the region, finally got its epilogue. The implementation of this programme has confirmed that Montenegro is fully committed to finding sustainable solutions for displaced and internally displaced persons, and that it has also built national capacities and mechanisms that can respond to bigger challenges," said Purisic.
The European Union (EU) is the largest donor for the Regional Housing Programme in Montenegro, whose total value is €28 million. The EU Ambassador to Montenegro, Aivo Orav, is pleased that EU funds are used for specific activities that help people solve their main life issues.
"I would like to thank all of the donors and partners, as well as the Municipality for today's success. I would also like to commend the Montenegrin government who is coordinating the Regional Housing Programme, and I wish to encourage you to continue with efforts in this area – sustainability is key when it comes to finding good housing solutions for those in need, as well as the integration of refugees, internally displaced people, and other vulnerable social groups. The EU will continue supporting you in this process," said Orav.
The Mayor of the Municipality of Berane, Dragoslav Scekic, recalled that during the years of war in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, Berane was a second home for many, and that at one point every fourth inhabitant of Berane was a displaced person.
"By opening your homes - symbolically opening your apartments today - you are sending a message that the heart of this city is open as it was then. You are sending a great message of peace, since you can only create something in peace. It is important to live and love," said Scekic, also adding that: "In the name of the local administration, I want to say that we will continue to do more, to fight harder and stronger in order for the new generations to have a future in this city, to work here, and provide for their families."
Financial support was also provided by the governments of the United States, Italy, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, and Turkey. The US Ambassador, Judy Rising Reinke, said that the United States have invested $30 million so far in the Regional Housing Project and will continue to support the project in order to improve the living conditions of those in need.
"With this goal in mind, I’m pleased to see the completion of this fourth construction project in Montenegro. Building on this success, the United States will help our partners realise similar projects in the near future." said the US Ambassador.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have given strong support to the programme. The OSCE Ambassador, Maryse Daviet, emphasised that the programme does not only mean housing care, but also provides new opportunities for a dignified life.
"However, housing is only one part of the equation, and more needs to be done to secure access to other rights such as education, employment, health, and pension. Complementary programmes are needed to help people sustain themselves in their new homes. The challenge of ensuring an inclusive society requires full commitment by all stakeholders. In this respect, the commitment of Montenegro and all other partner countries is encouraging," said the OSCE Ambassador, Maryse Daviet, at the ceremony.
The Director of the Council of Europe Development Bank, Stefan Zelen, emphasised that the programme has improved institutional capacities and provided valuable knowledge in order to direct Montenegro to address the needs of vulnerable groups.
"I sincerely hope that these keys that the beneficiaries of the Regional Housing Programme received today will open the door for a prosperous and happier life for them and their families," Zelen concluded.
The Regional Housing Programme in Montenegro has, so far, provided a home for a total of 1,504 people, and has built 395 housing units. The goal is to provide 6,063 people with a roof over their heads, or to at least do so for 1,177 families from the most vulnerable categories of the population.
The Montenegrin programme is part of the Regional Housing Programme, which represents a joint initiative between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia, to resolve the prolonged displacement of refugees and displaced people after the 1991-1995 war in the territory of former Yugoslavia, including internally displaced people in Montenegro since 1999. The total budget of the programme is €584 million euros, which will be spent for the construction of apartments for 74,000 people –which is around 27,000 families.