The Implementation and Monitoring Council (IMC), a body composed of representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Kosovo government, and international representatives in charge of implementing the Law on Special Protective Zones (SPZ), held a meeting on November 9th during which it endorsed an agreement on the rehabilitation of roads in Decani municipality while adhering to the law on SPZ, the European Union Office in Kosovo announced.
“The arrangement includes the synchronous development of both an international bypass road external to the SPZ boundaries and of a local road within the SPZ. It aims at fostering inter-community relations through the protection of religious cultural heritage and bolstering the economic development within the municipality of Deçan/Dečane and the region,” the statement reads.
The arrangement was facilitated by the Ambassador of Italy to Kosovo Nicola Orlando, with support and expertise provided by KFOR Commander, Major General Michele Risi.
The IMC members will follow up on the implementation of the arrangement with the support of KFOR, acting within its mandate – the statement added.
Tensions between the clergy of the Decani monastery and local authorities in this municipality have been running high for years due to attempts to build a transit road near the monastery, through a special protective zone – which is contrary to the law on SPZ and the IMC bypass agreement from 2014. The municipality started the construction several times and each time the works were halted due to the harsh reaction of the international community.
The decision was immediately welcomed by the Abbot of Visoki Decani, Sava Janjic: „With this decision of the Council for the Implementation and Monitoring of Protective Zones, a deal was adopted that will protect the monastery from the construction of an international road, which will avoid the protected zone through a bypass, while at the same time, it will enable the rehabilitation of the existing road used locally by the residents of Decani. The process will be synchronized and it will be internationally monitored. This ensures respect for the law, which our Church has insisted on from the start. “
This summer marked the last time the municipality tried to start the construction of this road section, however, after the works were suspended once again, Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti, together with the mayor of Decani, Bashkim Ramosaj, paid a visit to the monastery in search of a solution.
After the meeting, the abbot of Visoki Decani, Sava Janjic, expressed optimism that a solution that is in accordance with the law would be reached.
In addition to this long-standing problem with local authorities, the monastery has also been dealing with the municipality’s refusal to implement the decision of the Supreme Court of Kosovo, which was later confirmed by the Kosovo Constitutional Court, on entering 24-hectares of land over which the monastery proved ownership into the cadastre.
The embassies welcome the agreement
“Good news from Decan/Decane! The long awaited arrangement is a win win for all!” the German ambassador to Pristina, Jörn Rohde tweeted.
He shared the statement of the EU Office in Kosovo and congratulated all stakeholders involved in the talks.
The UK Embassy in Kosovo also expressed satisfaction over the agreement, especially one that „respects the rule of law and protects cultural heritage in Kosovo.“
The ambassador who facilitated the agreement, Nicola Orlando also reacted. He shared Italy’s readiness to provide the necessary support to the agreement.
“I was honored to contribute to this facilitation together with Commander Risi. It’s a first step in the right direction,” Orlando tweeted, adding that all parties are now called to work closely on implementation.
The US Embassy in Pristina congratulated the IMC for reaching the agreement, as well as the facilitators. The embassy also pointed out the fact that the reached agreement respects the rule of law.
League of Historians of Kosovo from Decani: Hoti capitulated
On the other hand, the Decani branch of the League of Historians „Ali Hadri“ spoke out against the agreement reached within the IMC.
The historians assessed, based on Hoti’s statement and the fact the agreement was not published, that Hoti surrendered Decani property to the monastery’s management. They also referred to the fact that the construction of the road on the existing route has not been allowed as capitulation, reports Kallxo.
The association concluded that changing the route of the road is unacceptable because it could harm the future of Decani.
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