In 2006, the Patriarchate of Peć was one of three Serbian Orthodox Christian sites added to the UNESCO World Heritage List and List of World Heritage in Danger. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
After meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic in Brussels last week, Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister of the partially recognized Republic of Kosovo, proposed a plan to form a special Kosovo Police unit, comprised of mainly Serbs, tasked with guarding Serbian religious and cultural heritage sites in Kosovo.
Both governments, along with EU representatives who facilitated discussions, agreed that the protection of Serbia’s cultural and religious sites — currently considered at risk due to war and conflict — is one of the most important issues in the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue. According to a report by the Southeast European Times, Thaci said he has “no doubt about the willingness and professionalism of Kosovo police to protect these sites, which are part of our common cultural and religious heritage.”
Under the current Ahtisaari Plan, a UN-developed proposal for an internationally mediated Kosovo Independence Declaration which provides an extensive legal framework and consideration for minority parties in the new government, there are 45 historical and cultural objects listed as special protected zones throughout Kosovo. Despite their lying within the borders of Kosovo, the Serbian church is the legal owner of the monuments and sites whose protection is at stake.
Visoki Dečani, a Serbian Orthodox Christian monastery, was inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004. Photo: Julian Nitzsche
“Kosovo’s government seems strongly committed to the protection of Serbian cultural and religious heritage in Kosovo, and, of course, the Serbian Orthodox Church sees the need to protect its own heritage, its own property,” said Ambassador Dimitris Moschopoulos, head of the Greek Liaison Office in Pristina.
Among the sites expected to gain protection are the four Serbian Orthodox Christian churches and monasteries that comprise the Medieval Monuments in Kosovo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Dečani monastery was the first to be inscribed, in 2004; it was joined by the Gračanica monastery, the Patriarchate in Peć, and Our Lady of Ljeviš in 2006. In the same session, the group of monuments was placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger “due to difficulties in its management and conservation stemming from the region’s political instability.”
Following the Kosovo Prime Minister’s announcement of the proposed special police unit, Moschopoulos said, “[Kosovo’s] government respects the identity of the Serbian heritage, its integrity, and is committed to safeguard it. The Serbian church has been realistic and pragmatic in dealing with this issue, whose purpose is to safeguard its own integrity, identity and property.”
Click here to explore Medieval Monuments in Kosovo on GHN