Visoki Decani Monastery has been included in a list as one of the most endangered monuments and heritage sites in Europe in 2021 on Friday. Kosovo’s recently elected president, Vjosa Osmani, and Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, as well as other Kosovo officials, however, objected to this decision. Numerous interlocutors of the Kosovo media have criticized Europa Nostra’s decision, claiming that the organization was „instrumentalized“ by the Serbian state and the Serbian Orthodox Church to include the topic in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. They also claimed that churches and monasteries in Kosovo are not endangered. The mayor of Decani even accused the monks that they are standing behind the incidents against the monastery, alleging that KFOR, the police, and the KSF were aware of that, while also emphasizing Albanians would guard Visoki Decani.
In the Kosovo media, the recent decision of the influential European organization dealing with Europe’s cultural heritage was interpreted to be part of „provocations from Belgrade.“ Pristina-based Koha writes that „the Serb state and church authorities were even more emboldened to ‘warn’ of the danger to the ‘Serb cultural heritage’ and Serbs in Kosovo, while on the other hand, state institutions reacted and published delayed correspondence with this European organization, pledging to hold ‘internal consultations, as well as consultation with our international friends'“.
Koha also wrote about the topic in the previous days. Just a day before the Kosovo Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports published Kurti’s and Osmani’s letter to Europa Nostra from March 18th on its Facebook page, the portal published the article: „Decani Monastery in danger“ – the triumph of Serbia, the silence of Kosovo.
„Serbia has once again managed to sound the international alarm that Kosovo’s cultural heritage is unsafe. This time it did this with the Decani monastery. This 14th-century-old building is already part of the list of the seven most endangered cultural monuments, compiled by the organization ‘Europa Nostra’. On Thursday, at an online event, this organization, which was founded in Paris in 1963, published the ‘List of Endangered Monuments’,“ the introduction of the article reads.
In yesterday’s article entitled: Europa Nostra ignored the arguments of Osmani and Kurti on the Decani monastery, the same portal wrote that this organization ignored the arguments on why the monastery of Visoki Decani should not be included on the list of endangered monuments, which were sent by the Kosovo Prime Minister and President as early as March 18th, at a time when a final decision had not yet been made.
The executive director of the Kosovo Foundation „Cultural Heritage without Borders“, Sali Shoshi, spoke about this topic yesterday on the Koha Group television – KTV.
As Koha writes in the accompanying text, Shoshi said that „the well-known organization for cultural heritage ‘Europa Nostra’ was instrumentalized by Serbia and the Serbian Orthodox Church when it decided to include the Decani monastery in the seven most endangered heritage monuments in Europe.“
According to Shoshi, with such actions, Serbia is attempting to make the issue of cultural heritage a part of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and to try to give the SOC in Kosovo extraterritorial status so that they would not be considered Kosovo’s cultural heritage.
In an interview with KTV, he said that none of the arguments published by „Europa Nostra“ for the Decani monastery are valid, adding that there have never been any reports of attempted terrorist attacks by ISIS in Kosovo, nor were there any problems with the road to Plav.
Arguments about the threat of ISIS and four attacks on the monastery were not mentioned in the last text in which it was revealed that the monastery has been included on the list of the most endangered cultural monuments in Europe for 2021, but they were mentioned in the text on monastery’s nomination.
„It’s instrumentalization. They became victims of propaganda, both with people inside and outside the organization. They became the prey of Serb propaganda. I think it is a pity for an organization that was founded 50 years ago, that has a network of organizations from 40 European countries, two from Kosovo. It is unfortunate that they are becoming victims of propaganda. I believe and I said so in the letter I sent to them that the ultimate goal of this decision is to make the issue of heritage more relevant, to understand the problems in Kosovo, and place it into the agenda of negotiations in dialogue. This was the background of the inclusion of the Decani monastery on this list,“ Shoshi said on KTV yesterday.
At the same time, he emphasized that Kosovo should not allow the issue of heritage to enter the dialogue, because „Kosovo has done much more for cultural heritage.“
He also suggested establishing contact with the Church in order to solve the problem.
The Kosovo Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Hajrulla Ceku, whose ministry also published a letter from Kurti and Osmani yesterday, shared the same views. In a statement, Ceku refuted the arguments of Europa Nostra, saying that the only alleged concern regarding the Decani monastery is „the unbuilt road for which Europa Nostra itself concludes that an agreement has been reached between all parties, including the Orthodox clergy.“ While claiming that Decani is not endangered, he agreed that the remaining six sites from this European list are really endangered.
Former Minister of Justice Selim Selimi also needed to publicly comment on the decision on Decani. He, like other Albanian officials, called Nostra’s European report „incorrect“. Moreover, he claims that Albanians never attacked cultural and religious values, but „protected them at all costs at all times“.
„Many do not seem to like the harmony and historical care of the citizens of Decani for their monastery. Europa Nostra claims that this monastery is in great danger of being called by local extremists, and that is incorrect,“ Gazeta Express reported on its Facebook page.
In addition to Selimi, negative reactions continue from other former Kosovo government officials. Now the leader of the PDK – Enver Hoxhaj, stated that he expects from Kurti’s government „a strategy in order to respond to Serbian diplomatic campaigns and propaganda against Kosovo“.
„They should wake up in order to protect the interests of Kosovo, and not to be silent before the damage to Kosovo’s image in Europe has already happened,“ Enver Hoxhaj said in a statement via Facebook, the media reported.
He claims that since Kosovo’s declaration of independence, Serbia has tried to create an image of cultural and religious monuments of the Serb minority in Kosovo being threatened, while ex-governments led by PDK have prevented such assessments and responded with active diplomacy and support to their partners.
But, what was impossible for years, was realized within a short time with the arrival of Kurti’s and Hoti’s government, stated this former Minister of Foreign Affairs.
„It has been a Belgrade-fueled media and diplomatic campaign for several months regarding the position of Serbian Church in Kosovo and the goal is very clear, except for the current government that does not understand it and has no idea how to respond,“ Hoxhaj pointed out.
Mayor of Decani: Incidents in Decani were carried out by monastery staff
The mayor of Decani, Bashkim Ramosaj, who once called the abbot of the monastery, Fr. Sava „crazy“ in public, also reacted.
Emphasizing that the citizens of Decani and the municipal government „have only peaceful goals that have already been proven,“ and that their goal is „realization of the concept of economic development,“ while they are committed to „the wealth that God has given to this city, where our children are growing up in an increasing economic prosperity,“ Ramosaj claims that the municipal wants „nothing more than that.” He alerted that the monastery has different goals however.
„The main goal of the monastery staff and many intriguing and false mercenaries who support the twisted cases of the monastery is to prevent the economic development and well-being of the citizens of Decani,“ he wrote in a Facebook post.
„I responsibly declare that every incident that happened in Decani from 2005 until now was committed by the staff of the monastery, and financed and approved by this staff. Security institutions, KFOR, and the Kosovo Police have data on that, and the KSF reports also testify to it. Europa Nostra and everyone else should know that we were reborn in this city after the genocide and the bloody and destructive Serb barbarism against the Albanians. We are committed to living in harmony and peace with all those who love this city, in which the Decani Monastery, which we built and preserved ourselves, is deemed a world heritage site,“ this official wrote.
He added that Albanians would never endanger the monastery.
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