1.         Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastra (Albania) (C 569bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2005

Criteria  (iii)(iv)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/569/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2002-2007)
Total amount approved: USD 44,964
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/569/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 1,367,014 is provided by the Albanian Government within the framework of the project 933 ALB 4000 “Safeguarding and restoration of selected monuments within the World Heritage site of the Old City of Gjirokaster – Albania

Previous monitoring missions

November 2012: ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/569/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

On 31 January 2013, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation, which in effect included two separate reports, one for each of the property’s components - Berat and Gjirokastra. The two reports address the issues identified by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011).

From 10 to 14 November 2012, an ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission visited the property, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011). The mission report is available online at the following web address: https://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/36COM/.

a)  Illegal constructions

For Gjirokastra, the State Party provided a list of 244 illegal constructions, out of which 68 are entirely new buildings. The State Party informed about the setting up of a committee composed of specialists, for the review of all illegal buildings in order to reach a professional conclusion on individual cases. The authorities have also drawn up a plan to address the illegal constructions, through demolition or mitigation, but so far it has not been implemented. In some instances, the illegal constructions considerably degrade the street image or hinder basic movement on the road network. The mission identified a number of such critical cases.

For Berat, a list of 38 illegal constructions was provided, along with a list of planned works to adapt illegal constructions over the next three years. The State Party reports that in 2013 the Institute of Cultural Monuments will create a unit to deal with the control of the property and the execution of restoration projects in Berat. It further reports that progress has been made in terms of photographic monitoring of the illegal constructions through comparison with archive photographs in the property and the buffer zone. In the framework of the digital re-registration of all properties on Albanian territory, property-owners are required to obtain a certificate from the Regional Directorate of National Culture, demonstrating that no partial or complete illegal building activity has occurred. To obtain the document, residents are obliged to prove that they have reversed any illegal interventions. Owners lacking such document cannot register their property in the Official Property Registry.

The mission noted that the overall control system of the illegal constructions is still not adequate. The mission identified, as an underlying cause, the lack of adequate legal protection. There is an urgent need to improve legislation and planning procedures. The existing “Law on Cultural Heritage” is too general and insufficient for effective protection of the two historic centres. There are no detailed rules to be used by the relevant bodies concerned with heritage at a local and central level, which in turn generates an uncertainty as to which procedures must be followed by the citizens when submitting requests for new development projects in the protected areas. The forthcoming “Regulation for the Historic Centre of Berat and its buffer zone” is absolutely necessary and its implementation should not be delayed. A similar Regulation should be drafted for the historic centre of Gjirokastra.

The mission report further included a number of recommendations on how to strengthen the legal framework.

The State Party further reports that meetings are held in Berat to raise awareness among residents concerning legal procedures for restoration projects. The mission noted that the protection of the property continues to be jeopardised by the lack of awareness of the community to protect the wider historic urban landscape. The mission highlighted the need to motivate the citizens to live and work in the respective historic centres through the provision of adequate public facilities and services.

b)  Management Systems

As Berat and Gjirokastra form one property, it is essential to put in place a single over-arching management structure for ensuring co-ordinated management in line with the Operational Guidelines.

The mission suggested that the Institute of Cultural Monuments (IMK) - a scientific state institution - become the responsible body for the conservation and management of the two components as one unit. It also recommended that the IMK could be responsible for the monitoring and demolishing or adapting the illegal constructions, as well as for permission requests of any new construction or development in the two historic centres.

The mission noted that the lack of trained specialists impacted on the proper management of the property and that there was a need for capacity-building and recommended to use the training facilities established by the UNESCO extra-budgetary project “Safeguarding and restoration of selected monuments within the World Heritage site of the Old City of Gjirokaster – Albania”. In addition, as financial resources for restoration and preservation of cultural heritage were also few, the mission recommended that consideration should be given to the preparation of applications to the EU funding programmes.

c)  Development of detailed monitoring indicators related to Outstanding Universal Value

For Gjirokastra, the State Party proposes to add to the existing indicators (number of restorations of separate monuments and annual funds allocated for restoration) two further indicators: the number of planned or implemented projects from EU and other, and the work undertaken by local institutions concerning the promotion and development of tourism. Little information is provided concerning Berat.

The mission confirmed that detailed monitoring indicators related to the Outstanding Universal Value still do not exist. There is an urgent need to define them as part of the efforts to control illegal building activities and they should also serve to underpin the management of the property.

d)  Fire prevention strategy

For Gjirokastra, the State Party reports that since the 1990s there has been a drastic reduction of fire hydrants from thirty to three. In 2005, with support from the European PHARE program, 5 new hydrants were installed. A civil emergency group has been set up to prevent and manage problematic situations. The need for two or more small size fire fighting vehicles that can easily access the narrow alleys of the city is highlighted, and a stronger cooperation is necessary in this regard between Municipality and Prefecture.

For Berat, the State Party provides details of a project financed by the European Union and undertaken in the Kala quarter in 2011 which includes the installation of fire hydrants. For Gorica and Mangalem quarters, there is so far no fire protection as noted by the mission.

The mission concluded that there is progress for Berat as a fire response plan has been completed, while a fire response report has been drafted for Gjirokastra but with little progress in terms of implementation due to the lack of funds.

e)  Archaeological excavation programme for development projects

The State Party reports that the Institute of Archaeology has made no archaeological excavations in the castle of Gjirokastra in the last five years, but that archaeological supervision accompanies the major restoration works, such as at Berat castle.

f)  Development of a Tourism Strategy, Gjirokastra

For Gjirokastra, the State Party reports that the Municipality of Gjirokastra has not yet developed a medium-term tourism development plan but it provides an abstract of an Action Plan for developing a tourism development strategy.

The mission noted that there is an overall need for the correlation of the Management Plans, the Tourism Strategy Plans as well as the Urban Development Plans. All of them should aim to strike a balance between the creation of economic activity and the protection of the Outstanding Universal Value.

g)  Restoration work at the Berat Castle 

The mission noted that no detailed plans were provided before the first phase of work on the Berat Castle commenced, as requested by the Committee. A second phase of restoration has been planned for the Castle. It includes: (a) the restoration of the Castle Walls, (b) the restoration (instead of reconstruction) of certain building facades and (c) the creation of a promenade outside the City Walls. Plans are still not available and this phase remains unfunded. The mission provided recommendations on the need for better documentation before further planning and did not consider the construction of the promenade justified.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that the scale of illegal constructions in Gjirokastra is alarming and note the lack of progress with implementing an Action Plan. In Berat the scale of the problem is smaller as some first measures have been implemented to reverse the damage incurred by illegal constructions.

They note that the mission considered that progress in stopping illegal activities is hindered by the lack of adequate legal tools, by the lack of an overall authority for the property with a relevant mandate, and by the lack of awareness amongst the local community about World Heritage status; all of which need to be addressed urgently.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that there is a need to strengthen the management of the property as a whole and put in place one over-arching authority (i.e. the Institute of Cultural Monuments) to become the responsible body for the conservation and management of the two cities as one unit. Such a body could also be responsible for the strategies to address monitoring and the adaptation of the illegal constructions and ensure parity of management approaches across the property.

The management of the property needs to be underpinned by a more comprehensive understanding of the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value and by a more focused set of monitoring indicators that clearly relate to Outstanding Universal Value, which would significantly strengthen the process of monitoring and development control.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that work has begun in Berat to provide water hydrants for a sizeable part of the city. Whereas in Gjirokastra the number of fire hydrants is still insufficient and needs to be increased through a similar project as is being implemented in Berat, if the vulnerable timber-framed buildings are to have adequate protection.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that a second phase of restoration is planned for Berat Castle. It is essential that detailed plans are provided before work commences. These plans need to respect the recommendations of the mission with regards to the restoration of the Castle Walls, the restoration of certain buildings facades and the lack of justification for a promenade outside the City Walls. They highlight the need to clearly differentiate between restoration and reconstruction.

 

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the conclusion of the mission concerning the willingness of the competent institutions to comply with the conservation requirements for the World Heritage property. They nevertheless note that the mission considered that the property was highly vulnerable to the impact of further degradation from illegal building works and the lack of measures to address existing violations. They therefore recommend that the Committee urge the State Party to proceed promptly with the implementation of the recommended Action Plan of the mission report, before the end of 2014, in order to avoid the emergence of serious dangers to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property that might warrant the Committee considering inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7B.70

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7B,

2.  Recalling Decision 35 COM 7B.82 , adopted at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011),

3.  Notes the details of illegal buildings provided by the State Party for both Berat and Gjirokastra, and expresses its serious concern about its scale in Gjirokastra and the lack of progress in developing and implementing an Action Plan to deal with these violations;

4.  Also notes the lack of adequate legal tools that would stop illegal interventions, urges the State Party to approve and implement the ‘Regulation for the Historic Centre of Berat and its buffer zone’ as soon as possible, and requests it to introduce a similar regulation for Gjirokastra;

5.  Further notes the report of the 2012 ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission and that the two historic cities of Berat and Gjirokastra are not managed as a single property and also urges the State Party to put in place as soon as possible an over-arching management structure for the property that has responsibility for monitoring and adaptation of illegal constructions and for ensuring parity of management approaches across the property;

6.  Stresses the need for the State Party to underpin the management of the property, and particularly the processes of monitoring and controlling development, by a clearer articulation of the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value and by a focused set of monitoring indicators that clearly relate to it;

7.  Also requests the State Party to address urgently the need for further fire hydrants to be provided at Gjirokastra and for those parts of Berat not covered by the on-going EU-funded project;

8.  Encourages the State Party to continue measures to raise awareness of World Heritage status amongst local communities in Berat and Gjirokastra;

9.  Further requests the State Party to provide to the World Heritage Centre details of the second phase of work at Berat Castle, taking into account the mission’s views, in advance of project approval, for review by the Advisory Bodies in line with Paragraph 172 of Operational Guidelines ;

10. Regrets that no information about the new Kodra House Hotel project was submitted to the mission, takes note of the recently submitted documentation by the State Party, and requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre a heritage impact assessment, in conformity with the ICOMOS Guidelines on Heritage Impact Assessments for World Heritage cultural properties and to halt any works on the project until it has been evaluated by the Advisory Bodies;

11. Further urges the State Party to address all the recommendations of the reactive monitoring mission and implement the recommended Action Plan, by the end of 2014 , in order to reverse the decline within the property and ensure its vulnerabilities do not increase to a degree that would threaten its Outstanding Universal Value;

12. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014 and 1 February 2015 respectively, updated reports on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.