Note: The Secretariat was informed by the Legal Advisor that “The UNESCO Secretariat follows the practice of the United Nations, which considers that the Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) continues to be applicable to the territory of Kosovo until a final settlement is achieved”.
Reports on the state of conservation of the property, providing information on conservation and restoration works in the four parts of the serial World Heritage property, were submitted by the Permanent Delegation of Serbia to UNESCO on 30 January 2009, 3 February 2010, 31 January 2011 and 30 January 2012. Additional information on specific issues related to the state of conservation has been submitted by letters or electronic communications.
a) State of conservation
Since the decision of the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee (Quebec City, 2008) which debated on the state of conservation of the property and recalled that long-term protective measures should continue to be applied, the state of conservation is as follows:
As a follow up to the International Donors Conference (May 2005) and the 2007 Intersectorial mission, and further to the request of the Director-General of UNESCO, the UNESCO Venice Office (BRESCE), in cooperation with the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo(UNMIK), organized an expert mission, from 19 to 22 January 2009. The mission visited all four components of the World Heritage property and updated the information about the situation of the property as follows:
- Gracanica Monastery: The mission noted changes since the previous mission at the monuments including certain construction activities in the compound of the Monastery. The technical experts noted some damages on the frescoes. In the mission’s view, the restoration of the frescoes of the monastery may be proposed for financing through the contribution which the Russian Federation had announced to the Director-General of UNESCO (the Russian Funds-in-Trust project is currently being implemented). During a subsequent visit to Gracanica by UNESCO BRESCE mission in August 2009, no changes were noted since the January 2009 mission;
- Decani Monastery: The mission observed that special attention should be paid to the proposal of the Monastery authorities related to the re-construction of the dormitory-lodge that was burned down in 1946, as the plan proposed was not cleared by the Institute for Protection of Monuments from Belgrade;
- Pec Patriarchate: The mission noted that the facade of the three churches was recently repainted in dark red colour. No information on this development was received by the World Heritage Centre in compliance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Church of the Holy Virgin of Ljevisa, Prizren: No changes had been noted since the mission in July 2008. Although the keys of the restored monument were supposed to be handed over to the Church representatives, this had not happened. UNESCO has organized activities related to the restoration of the wall paintings. The project should also include restoration of some external elements. Further works on the wall paintings could not be initiated before ensuring the appropriate architectural works and that no frescoes would be endangered by atmospheric influences.
The January 2009 mission concluded that the monitoring of the World Heritage property in Kosovo had to be reinforced and that more frequent reporting could be undertaken as an intermediate solution. In April 2009, the Director-General decided to activate the Reinforced monitoring mechanism after having carefully considered the specific circumstances of this property.
A number of the outstanding issues identified by the mission have been addressed since 2009.
- Gracanica Monastery: Urgent interventions have been completed on the frescoes with the worst degradations in the Holy Annunciation Church. Two types of urgent interventions measures have been proposed in order to preserve the property. The first one, funded by the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments, concerns the replacement of 12 sq.m. of the damaged lead roof in 2011 and reparation of damaged areas, while the other one concerns conservation works on the frescos, including measuring dampness of the walls in the Southern parekklesion and preventive measures for the unstable fresco areas and other areas at risk. The latter measures will continue to be applied.
- Decani Monastery: Protective archaeological investigations have taken place in view of the reconstruction of the dormitory-lodge in the Monastery yard, in compliance with the project which was approved by the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Serbia and the Culture Commission for Cultural Goods of Outstanding Value. These investigations were fully completed in 2010. In 2011, the reconstruction works on the dormitory-lodge continued and the first phase of rough construction was completed by December 2011. On 10 April 2012 the Permanent Delegation of Serbia to UNESCO reported to the World Heritage Centre that graffiti in red had appeared on the wall on 31 March 2012, followed by new black graffiti a few days later, on 2 April 2012. In a letter of 13 April 2012, the World Heritage Centre requested UNMIK to undertake the necessary investigations, provide further details and liaise with the respective authorities to increase security. In a letter of 19 April UNMIK provided information that it maintains contacts with all agencies engaged in providing security around the components of the property. It has therefore contacted the Kosovo Stabilisation Force (KFOR) which, as a consequence, increased patrolling and general visibility around Decani. Further to the request of the World Heritage Centre for details concerning a planned construction of a road close to Decani, UNMIK responded that, to its knowledge, this local initiative does not have any funding, due to the lack of sustainability.
- Patriarchate of Pec: Approvals for new gates and a farmhouse in the Patriarchate of Pec have been issued in 2010. Conservation and restoration works were undertaken on the frescoes of the Virgin Mary Odigitria Church. In 2011, exploratory works and experimental cleaning were done on the frescoes of St Demetrios Church, and the wall dampness was measured (up to 30 cm in depth) showing that the conditions were currently stable. During a meeting with the World Heritage Centre in August 2011 and a letter of 31 August 2011, the Permanent Delegation of Serbia to UNESCO provided information about works concerning a pumping station and a water pool in the immediate vicinity. Further to the request of the World Heritage Centre, UNMIK conducted research and consultations with the local authorities, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the contracted company and the Institute for the Protection of Monuments in Belgrade. It provided information that the pumping station is located outside the buffer zone of the World Heritage property and that the “reservoir does not appear to be visible from the Patriarchate”. Further to the report submitted by the Permanent Delegation of Serbia to UNESCO on 30 January 2012, according to an expert opinion of the Institute for the Development of Water Resources, “the position of the Patriarchate […] and the inclination of the terrain are such that if, for any reason, water was to flow out of these structures, it would not go towards the Patriarchate [...]”.
- Holy Virgin of Ljevisa Church in Prizren: Further to an incident concerning the theft of 20 sq.m. of the roof of the Church of the Virgin of Ljevisa which was reported to the World Heritage Centre in April 2011, the damages were inspected by the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments. Due to several months of soaking, the mortar layer in the interior of the church had deteriorated and caused considerable fissures and cracks around the frescoes and it was possible that further detachment of the painted layer, as well as flaking and bubbling would occur in the future. Urgent interventions, identified as necessary by the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments, were undertaken to repair the roof, including change of mortar and placing hydro-isolation as in other sections of the vault. The replacement of the roof was funded by the UNESCO Venice Office, and the works were completed in August 2011. A first phase of conservation and restoration works was carried out in 2011 for 30 sq.m. of the frescoes, further to a UNESCO tender. On 10 April 2012, the Permanent Delegation of Serbia to UNESCO provided information that an explosive device had been found in the church yard and that the Kosovo police had been notified immediately. The device, a signal flare according to information received by UNMIK, was promptly removed by the Kosovo Police together with KFOR. In its letter of 13 April 2012, the World Heritage Centre requested UNMIK to ensure that all respective authorities take the necessary measures to provide the highest level of security to the property, particularly drawing attention to the second phase of restoration works which international experts were scheduled to commence in the end of April 2012. UNMIK’s reply of 19 April 2012 informs that the security responsibility for Ljevisa has been transferred to the Kosovo police, which maintains a fixed checkpoint. In addition, KFOR continues to patrol and to provide overall security. UNMIK has also informed the local authorities and EULEX, which monitors and advises Kosovo Police.
b) International cooperation
Since 2009, the respective Assistant Director-Generals for Culture and other officials have met with the staff concerned with Kosovo at the European Commission Offices in Brussels (EC – DG Enlargement) on different occasions, as well as with different officials of the European Union, including the Head of the Liaison Office in Pristina, and with the Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to discuss issues related to the safeguarding of the four components of the World Heritage property. In March 2010, the Assistant Director-General for Culture met high representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church to discuss the protection of the monasteries.
The World Heritage Centre and the UNESCO Venice Office are in permanent contact with UNMIK, and all concerned stakeholders, concerning all issues related to the property, including state of conservation and security issues.
c) Handover of security responsibility
The World Heritage Centre was informed in 2010 that the so-called “unfixing” process, which represents in substance the handover of security responsibility for “Properties with Designated Special Status” from the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) to Kosovo police, started in August 2010 on the basis of a decision of the North Atlantic Council of July 2010. The process is being implemented through a mechanism of regular consultations with the key stakeholders. Further to information provided by UNMIK to the World Heritage Centre, the transfer of guarding responsibilities from KFOR to Kosovo police had been completed with respect to Gracanica, before end of January 2011. Kosovo Police also ensures the security for the Virgin of Ljevisa Church, while KFOR ensures the security for the Patriarchate of Pec and Decani.
d) Conservation and Restoration projects
The implementation of the USD 2,000,000 UNESCO/Russian Federation Funds-in-Trust (FiT) project on “Safeguarding of World Heritage Sites in Kosovo” started in 2011, with UNESCO as implementing agency. The main objective of the project is to contribute to the restoration of the monuments and to strengthen the local capacities in this field. After completion of the tender process and the preparatory works of the contracted companies, effective conservation and restoration works are scheduled in all four components of the World Heritage property, in accordance with the identified needs, as from Spring 2012.
Furthermore, UNESCO, with the contributions of Greece, the Czech Republic, Italy and the Russian Federation, continues the works on the restoration of the wall paintings of the Holy Virgin of Ljevisa Church in Prizren.
Altogether, since the Donor conference in 2005, conservation and restoration projects amounting to USD 2,798,348 have been implemented, or are in the process of implementation, by UNESCO as implementing agency in all four components of the property. Donor countries include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy and the Russian Federation.