Police guard ethnic Albanian refugees as they leave the plane after arriving at Sofia's airport, April2000.
The United Nations refugee agency has welcomed a joint declaration by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and Serbia to expedite the search for solutions for 74 000 remaining refugees from the Balkans conflict of the 1990s, the UN News Centre said.
The declaration was signed by ministers of foreign affairs of the four countries in Belgrade on November 7 2011, Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.
"It has come about through intense efforts by the four countries and is a firm commitment on the part of their respective governments to co-operate at regional and national level in dealing with an enduring problem for this part of Europe," said Mr. Edwards.
High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres attended the November 7 ministerial meeting and witnessed the signing of the declaration, along with the representatives of the European Union, United States, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe.
The declaration envisages accelerated provision of civil documentation allowing refugees and returnees to fully enjoy their rights and resume normal lives.
It also includes a regional programme, which will be presented to donors at a conference early next year to seek international support for housing solutions for refugees in collective centres and other vulnerable people, including former tenancy-rights holders.
"UNHCR believes the fulfilment of these commitments will also support the accession of these countries to the European Union," Edwards said. "We will remain engaged and strongly committed to supporting the governments of these four countries in closing this refugee displacement chapter."
The agency is also working with the national authorities on the development of asylum systems and practices that are in line with international and EU standards.
UNHCR led a major refugee assistance effort during the violent breakup of the former Yugoslavia in early 1990s.
With more than two million people uprooted within and beyond the region, it was the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War 2.
The majority of the refugees have returned to their homes over the past 16 years or have integrated in host communities.