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EU Court Says Slovenia, Serbia Must Pay Savers of Banks

The European Court for Human Rights ruled in favor of three Bosnian citizens who sued Slovenia and Serbia for lost savings when the collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s split up two former state banks, setting a precedent for others trying to recoup their money.

The Strasbourg, France-based court said Serbia must pay Sakib Sahdanovic and Slovenia must compensate Emina Alisic and Aziz Sadzak each 4,000 euros ($5,124), accordoing to the ruling posted today on its website.

“Slovenia and Serbia should undertake all necessary measures within six months in order to allow the applicants and all others in their position to be paid back their ‘old’ foreign-currency savings under the same conditions as those who has such savings in domestic branches of Slovenian and Serbian banks,” the court said.

Savers from former Yugoslav republics such as Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina have filed lawsuits in European courts seeking to retrieve their savings from banks including the predecessor of Nova Ljubljanska Banka d.d. more than two decades after the disintegration of the Yugoslav federation. The dispute broadened when Slovenia threatened to tie up Croatia’s planned European Union membership bid.

Slovenia will ratify Croatia’s EU membership quickly once issues surrounding NLB are solved, Foreign Minister Karel Erjavec said last month.

Croatia, which needs Slovenia to ratify its July 2013 entry, has barred NLB from operating on its soil while the dispute persisted. The government in Zagreb asked Slovenia in a Oct. 2 letter to jointly approach the Bank for International Settlements to find a solution even though the Basel-based bank rejected a mediator’s role in 2010.

The dispute has strained relations between the two countries ever since they gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 along with a border dispute that the two nations agreed to settle via a special tribunal.

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