Yugoslav war in 1991-1995 created the largest number of refugees and displaced persons since the end of World War II in Europe. As for Croatia, approximately 950,000 people were forced to leave their home during the war. The ethnic breakdown was the Croats 550,000 and the Serbs 400,000.
After Dayton-Paris Agreement in the end of 1995, refugees and displaced persons started returning to their former areas of residence. As far as the Croats concerned, it can be said that the process of return has almost completed. In contrast to this, the return of Croatian Serbs refugees has been delayed considerably. So far only 100,000 people have returned home from abroad and two third of refugees are remaining out of the country.
Among the various kinds of obstacles to return of Croatian Serbs refugees, the author regards the housing problem as the biggest one. Indeed, there are two kinds of housing problem, according to the type of ownership. One is the right of occupancy in the socially owned apartment and another is reconstruction and restitution of private houses of Serb refugees. In this paper the author focuses on the former problem.
Before the war, most of urban inhabitants in Croatia lived in apartments owned by the state or state enterprises, often referred to as "socially owned apartments". The right to use a socially owned apartment apartment–frequently referred to as the right of tenancy–was protected by the law and more like the concept of property right. However, during the war and immediately afterwards, the government terminated these rights retained by the Croatian Serbs who had been long absent from home because of the war. New tenants–frequently the Bosnian Croats moved into their apartments and occupied them legally or illegally.
Then the government started privatizing the socially owned apartments and sold them to the tenants for reduced-prices. The apartments in which the Croatian Serbs lived were privatized too and transformed into private possession. It became impossible for them to repossess their apartments. Therefore, so far very few Serbs refugees have returned home in urban areas in Croatia.
The author saws a retributive thinking in the measures the government took. Such a kind of policy was unfortunately repeated in the history of Yugoslavia. It can be considered an expression of Balkan politics. However, nowadays Croatia ratifi ed various kind of international convention on human rights, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Therefore, Croatia must take effective measures to review its policies, and to change any laws that have the effect of creating discrimination. The author thinks that then Croatia can enter into a new stage of its history.