UNDP and the EU put on hold the restoration of Xhafer Deva’s house

The United Nation Development Program in Kosovo and the European Union have put on hold the restoration of Xhafer Deva’s house, the two agencies just announced.

The decision arrived following a strong reaction of the international, Kosovan, and Serbian public to the announcement that the restoration works on Xhafer Deva’s house were initiated. Deva, as Serb historians were the first to point out, was a prominent Wehrmacht figure and Nazi collaborator. The restoration project was a joint effort of the UNDP, the EU and the Kosovo Ministry of Culture.

„United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kosovo and European Union have been closely listening to concerns following the announcement of the restoration of a cultural heritage site in Mitrovica associated with previous owner Xhafer Deva, whose past as a Nazi collaborator has been much commented on over the last few days,“ UNDP and EU said in a joint press release, adding:

„The intention of the project has always been to bring communities together and contribute to social cohesion by using cultural heritage as an instrument for inter-community dialogue and by claiming back cultural heritage for community use. UNDP and the European Union express our strong regret for any unintentional offense caused when announcing the initiating of works while omitting the historical background of Xhafer Deva.”

UNDP and European Union highlighted they strongly condemn anti-semitism and xenophobia and its many manifestations, including “rising intolerance and bigotry towards ethnic minorities and vulnerable communities.”

“We are committed to protect the vulnerable, promote fundamental human rights and uphold the freedom, dignity and fight misinformation”

“UNDP together with the EU, have put on hold the work at the site. We are in contact with all parties involved and re-assessing our role and contribution, including the possibility to use the current controversy as a timely opportunity to openly address the past through open discussions and consultations of all relevant communities.”

Cultural heritage projects implemented by UNDP since 2016 in partnership with the EU, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, municipalities, and religious communities have completed renovation and rehabilitation works in more than 35 cultural and religious sites, belonging to diverse religious and ethnic groups living in Kosovo, they recalled.

Several years ago, however, according to the information available at the time, the EU invested significant funds in the renovation of the Cultural Center in South Mitrovica. After the war, the center in question was named after another controversial figure and Deva’s contemporary, Minister of Culture and Prime Minister of Albania during the Nazi regime during World War II in Albania, Rexhep Mitrovica.

Kosovo’s Minister of Culture Hajrulla Ceku also reacted today, just a few hours prior to the communiques, still expecting the restoration of the house, not necessarily under Xhafer Deva’s name.

„We are not carrying out historical revisionism and personality rehabilitation. In fact, the source of all this unnecessary noise is our northern neighbor, whose historical revisionism has a nationalist policy and who reacts to any positive developments in Kosovo,“ said Ceku in his explanation of the plan to renovate Xhafer Deva’s house.

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