Europa Nostra to Pristina: Nomination and decision on V. Decani is in line with professional standards, request a meeting

FOTO: Visoki Dečani
FOTO: Visoki Dečani deča

The inclusion of Visoki Decani on the 7 Most Endangered List is not the end of the process; it rather marks the beginning of due consultations with all parties concerned. The monastery’s nomination is in line with the highest professional standards. The same is true for the entire selection and decision-making process which have led to the inclusion of the Decani Monastery in this year’s List of 7 Most endangered sites in Europe – reads Europa Nostra’s reply to multiple letters Pristina officials sent to this organization, opposing its decision to include Visoki Decani on the list of the 7 most endangered.

Europa Nostra’s decision to include Visoki Decani on its list of the 7 most endangered in early April triggered an avalanche of negative reactions in the Kosovo public.

Kosovo officials even sent multiple letters sent to this organization, international officials, and UNESCO – opposing this decision. They claimed that the monastery is not endangered and that it enjoys a high level of security. Furthermore, they alleged that it is a Kosovan cultural heritage site.

The organizations Europa Nostra and Future for Religious Heritage sent their reply to Pristina today.

They responded to a May 17th letter from Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla-Schwarz and Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Hajrulla Ceku addressed to Europa Nostra, as well as the May 18th letter Ceku sent to the organization that nominated Visoki Decani – Future for Religious Heritage.

Ceku confirmed that he sent the letter to the president of Future for Religious Heritage, Pilar Bahamonde, and its executive officer, Jordi Mallarach, two days ago on his Twitter page.

In the letter, Ceku informed this organization about Kosovo’s stance on Europa Nostra’s decision on Visoki Decani.

“After consideration by the relevant panel, the Monastery of Decani, we believe, has been unfairly included in the final list. One of the key shortcomings is the nomination phase, respectively the content, arguments and facts of the nomination text,” Ceku wrote.

He invited the organization to reveal the source of their claims and “clarify some important details” regarding the nomination text.

“What was the source of information for the alleged attack by the terrorist organization ISIS on the Monastery of Decani? To whom specifically do you refer when you use the term ‘local extremists’ and on the reports of which security institutions did you base your concerns of the four alleged attacks?” – read some of Ceku’s questions to the Future of Religious Heritage.

This Kosovan minister also inquired as to who were their sources of information that “a major international highway is planned to be built near the doors of the monastery?” He further recalled that the parties reached an agreement last year to build a bypass.

He expressed the belief that the matter of the monastery and the political dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia are not connected.

“Can you clarify which is the alleged connection in your text between these two? Can you tell us with which CSOs, institutes and professions, institutions and other groups of Kosovo you consulted for this nomination?” – Ceku wrote, asking the organization whether it visited the monastery to see up close its “actual state” during the nomination process.

“Do you have enough information regarding the current state, state of security, constitutional, legal and institutional protection of the monastery of Decani?”

Finally, he concluded that the organization’s answers will be of interest to all citizens of Kosovo and beyond.

Europa Nostra’s and the Future for Religious Heritage’s response

The presidents of the organizations Europa Nostra and the Future for Religious Heritage responded to Gervalla’s and Ceku’s letters today.

“While noting your different point of view, we wish to assure you that the nomination dossier submitted by the Future for Religious Heritage was carefully prepared in line with the highest professional standards that are required for nominations under this programme,” they wrote, emphasizing:

“The same is true for the entire selection and decision-making process which have led to the inclusion of the Decani Monastery in this year’s List of 7 Most endangered sites in Europe.”

In their reply to the Kosovan minister, they enclosed an additional public statement adopted by the Europa Nostra Board at its meeting held on 1st June.

“We are confident that this statement will bring you additional clarification about the purpose and the procedures of the 7 Most Endangered Programme and the decision to include the Decani Monastery in this year’s list.”

They claim the inclusion of a site on the 7 Most Endangered List is not the end of the process; it rather marks the beginning of due consultations with all parties concerned.

“As a result, a comprehensive report is prepared on the state of the matter, with recommendations for adequate action which should ultimately lead to the removal of the danger(s) facing a given heritage site and consequently to the removal of the site from our 7 Most Endangered List.”

These organizations also underlined that this method has been applied to all sites which have been included in the list of endangered.

“Since the launch of this programme in 2013, we have selected a total of 43 endangered heritage sites in 26 European countries. Through the publication of annual lists of 7 Most Endangered Sites, Europa Nostra – acting in partnership with the EIB Institute – engages in a positive approach by offering its good offices to help find sustainable and lasting solutions to the endangered sites in question. We do this by bringing together and by facilitating a constructive dialogue between all relevant stakeholders, including authorities and civil society.”

They stressed that it is their mission to preserve the integrity and authenticity of the selected endangered heritage sites for the benefit of society as a whole.

“As such, our action is most of the time welcomed by national and local authorities concerned as it provides valuable support and expert advice.”

The Kosovan Prime Minister and President were the first to write to Europa Nostra before the final decision on the monastery was even reached. They urged the organization not to include Visoki Decani in its list.

Recalling that in the 19th April letter to Kosovo President and Prime Minister, they stated that a delegation composed of experts appointed by Europa Nostra plans to visit Kosovo for talks with all stakeholders concerned.

This visit will probably take place after the summer.

In the meantime, these organizations have started organizing online meetings with local and international interlocutors. They proposed to have an online meeting with Ceku and Gervalla as soon as possible, i.e. during the month of June.

Thanking the Kosovan Ministers for the “assurances” about the Kosovo government’s dedication to the preservation of cultural heritage, the presidents of these organizations said that they are looking forward to engaging in open and constructive dialogue “for the benefit of our shared goal: the safeguard of the multicultural and multireligious heritage in Europe.”

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