“A remarkable example of efforts towards peace, reconciliation and integration”: 96 newly-constructed apartments delivered to RHP beneficiaries in Vrela Ribnička, Montenegro
As the Regional Housing Programme (RHP) approaches its conclusion in June 2023, RHP stakeholders gathered with beneficiaries to celebrate a much-anticipated occasion in Montenegro today – the delivery of newly-constructed apartments to 96 most-vulnerable refugee and displaced families in Vrela Ribnička, on the outskirts of Podgorica.
In addition to the beneficiaries themselves, the ceremony – which was hosted by Admir Adrović, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare of Montenegro, assisted by Budimirka Đukanović, Director at the Ministry – was attended by Ambassador Oana Cristina Popa, Head of the EU Delegation to Montenegro; H.E Peter Felten, Ambassador of Germany to Montenegro; Jean-Yves Bouchardy, UNHCR Representative to Montenegro; Marja Seppälä, Head of the RHP Unit at the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB), and Ivan Vuković, the Mayor of Podgorica, in addition to representatives from the other three RHP Partner Countries – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia – and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Welcoming the families, Minister Adrović stated, “During the war, many people lost their homes, as well as their loved ones. Montenegro opened its doors and welcomed everyone who needed help, offering them a new home and new hope. You have become part of our society. The reason for today’s gathering testifies to this.” He additionally thanked the European Union – the main Donor to the RHP – as well as the Donor countries, Council of Europe Development Bank, UNHCR, OSCE, other Partner Countries, and the City of Podgorica for their support and co-operation.
On behalf of the European Union, Ambassador Popa warmly congratulated the beneficiaries on their new homes, and reflected with satisfaction that the Programme had delivered housing to more than 30 000 most-vulnerable beneficiaries across the region thus far. “This Programme is a remarkable example of the joint efforts of countries from the region and international Donors towards peace, reconciliation and integration,” she said. “It is our joint success, and the EU is proud to be the biggest Donor.”
These words were echoed by UNHCR Representative Jean-Yves Bouchardy, who furthermore praised Montenegro for the assistance that it had provided to refugees over the years. “The country has shown, yet again, through the Regional Housing Programme, its commendable dedication to providing durable solutions for displaced persons from Bosnia and Herzegovina and for internally displaced people from Kosovo,” he said.
Marja Seppälä reflected both on the long-standing role of the CEB in the RHP, and the active engagement of Donors since the launch of the Programme. “The CEB is deeply proud to be part of the RHP, which fits well with our core mandate, the provision of support to social integration projects for refugees and displaced persons,” she said. “No celebrations can be complete, however, without acknowledging the vital role played by the RHP Donors – principally the EU, but also the other main Donors such as Germany – who I am glad to see is also present here today – the USA, Norway, Switzerland and Italy. Without your generosity, none of this would have been possible.”
Finally, one of the beneficiaries present, Hasani Ševćet, took the opportunity to thank RHP stakeholders on behalf of the beneficiary families, before concluding with a traditional song.
The event was followed by a meeting of the RHP Regional Coordination Forum, a gathering of all Programme stakeholders, at which Minister Adrović stated, “This Programme has opened the door to broader co-operation in the region and successfully contributed to the reconciliation process. The sustained and collective commitment of the international Donor community has played an important role. Trust has been built, and the exchange of information between Partner Countries has become a practice.”