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 12.44 (1999) continues to be applicable to the territory of Kosovo until a final settlement is achieved”.
The World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008) acknowledged the continuing difficulties to monitor the property and the challenges to the follow-up to the intersectoral mission of January 2007 and recalled its request, in cooperation with UNESCO programmes, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the Institutions of Kosovo, as well as future European arrangements, to continue to take long-term corrective measures, including: ensuring adequate long-term legislative, regulatory protection and management of the property and strong protective regimes for the buffer zones, adequately delineated boundaries and the timely implementation of the management plan.
Following the discussion on these issues at the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee (Quebec City, 2008) and as suggested by the Chairperson in her conclusions, the World Heritage Centre addressed a request for clarification to the Legal Advisor of UNESCO about the international “legal framework” of this matter. A Circular Letter dated 31 March 2009 entitled “Final Decision 32 COM 7A.27 concerning the Medieval Monuments in Kosovo” was sent to all States Parties to the World Heritage Convention and to the Advisory Bodies including the finalized decision.
a) State of conservation and international cooperation
A report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the Permanent Delegation of Serbia on 30 January 2009, indicating that the last monitoring at Decani Monastery took place on 17 January 2009, which noted that the monastery church is in good condition. However some deterioration at the facades had been noticed due to the lack of drainage and water gutter systems. It mentioned also the “boiler room” located in the buffer zones where structures were built. Concerning Gracanica Monastery the monitoring was carried out on 18 January 2009, it was noted that it was in a good condition with similar water effects on the lower walls. Several structures were built in the buffer zones, including residential wings, a new bell tower, a boiler room and garage. The threatened facade sculptures and wall painting are subject to conservation works carried out in stages and with NGO support. A workplan is suggested which includes the survey of the monastery complex, assessing priorities for projects, performing the works and monitoring and evaluation. In addition systematic excavation investigations should be performed. Concerning the Church of the Virgin of Ljevisa in Prizren, the structure is in good condition and the roofs and domes were covered in 2008 with lead metal plate. The Facades of the Patriarchate of Pec were restored in 2008.
As a follow up to the International Donors Conference (May 2005) and the 2007 Intersectorial mission and at the request of the Director-General of UNESCO, the UNESCO Venice Office (BRESCE), in cooperation with UNMIK, organized an expert mission to Kosovo from 19 to 22 January 2009.
The mission had the opportunity to update the information about the situation of the serial World Heritage property in Kosovo and visited the following parts of the property:
- Gracanica: 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. A further visit to Gracanica was made during the UNESCO (BRESCE) mission in August 2009, no changes were noted since the January 2009 mission;
- Decani: The mission observed that special attention should be paid to the proposal of the Monastery authorities related to the re-construction of the dormitory that was burned down in 1946, as the plan proposed was not cleared by the Institute for Protection of Monuments from Belgrade. In the case of further attempts related to the construction of this building an ICOMOS expert mission could be sent to review the plans and proposed solutions;
- Pec: The mission noted that the facade of the three churches was recently repainted in dark red color. No information on this development was received by the World Heritage Centre in compliance with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Church of the Virgin of Ljeviska, Prizren: No changes have been noted by the mission since the last mission in July 2008. Although the keys of the restored monument were supposed to be handed over to the Church representatives, this has not happened. UNESCO is organizing the activities related to the restoration of the wall paintings; it is important to underline that 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 be endangered by atmospheric influences.
It may be noted that both the Director of the Center of Monuments of Serbia and the Director of Cultural Heritage in Kosovo cooperated with the January 2009 mission team.
In addition, the Assistant Director-General for Culture met with the staff concerned with Kosovo at the European Commission Offices in Brussels (EC – DG Enlargement) on 3 April 2009. Cooperation opportunities related to the Forum for Technical Information Exchange on Cultural Heritage in Kosovo were discussed. Launched on 28 January 2009, the Forum is open to all relevant technical stakeholders with the common objective of preserving and promoting cultural heritage. Its main purpose is to facilitate information exchange in view of a coordinated approach for the cultural heritage in Kosovo, including with UNMIK and UN Habitat. The Forum is not a decision-making body. The European Commission requested the participation of UNESCO at the technical level. Since 2009 UNESCO took part in two consecutive meetings of the Forum. Further to feedback received from donors and other stakeholders, the Forum has not yet achieved its originally defined objective. According to the available information, no further meetings of the Forum have taken place since March 2010.
In March 2010 the Assistant Director-General for Culture met with high representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church to discuss issues related to the protection of the monasteries. In May and June 2010 respectively, the Assistant Director-General for Culture met with 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 4 parts of the World Heritage property.
b) Reinforced monitoring mechanism
The mission of January 2009 concluded that the monitoring of the World Heritage property in Kosovo has to be reinforced. Due to the complex situation of the protection of heritage in Kosovo, underlining that the Church is the owner of this heritage, but considering the real will of all the parties to support and improve their efforts to protect World Heritage in Kosovo and the evolution of the cooperation among the managers of heritage, more frequent reporting could be developed as an intermediate solution.
On 29 October 2008 the Republic of Serbia wrote to the Director-General of UNESCO and requested to “approve reinforced monitoring of the “Medieval monuments in Kosovo ”in order to ensure timely implementation of the World Heritage Committee’s decisions relating of these monuments in danger”.
Following the January 2009 mission and the finalization of the Decision of the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee and its transmission to all States Parties on 31 March 2009, the Director General of UNESCO decided to activate the Reinforced monitoring mechanism after having carefully considered the specific circumstances of this property.
c) State of conservationupdate 2010-2011
On 3 February 2010 and on 31 January 2011, the Permanent Delegation of Serbia submitted update reports on the state of conservation, providing information on conservation and restoration works in the four parts of the serial World Heritage property.
The 2010 report informed about the protective archaeological investigations taking place in Decani Monastery in view of the need to build new residential quarters. The investigations were fully completed in 2010, as stated in the 2011 report. The residential quarters were reconstructed up to the ground level and the works continue in spring 2011. Detailed surveys and digitalization of frescoes of the Decani Monastery Church and the Church of the Virgin of Ljevisa have been made. Approvals for new gates and a farmhouse in the Patriarchate of Pec have been issued. Conservation and restoration works have been done on the Virgin Mary Odigitria Church frescoes. Urgent interventions were completed on the frescoes with the worst degradations in the Holy Annunciation Church, Gracanica Monastery.
A recent incident concerning 20 m2 of the roof of the Church of the Virgin of Ljeviska has been reported in April 2011 to UNESCO which requested UNMIK to assist with providing information on the investigations and will also contribute financially, through the UNESCO BRESCE Office, to the repair of the roof.
d) Handover of security responsibility
The World Heritage Centre was informed that a 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, by January 2011 the transfer of guarding responsibilities from KFOR to Kosovo police has been completed with respect to Gracanica Monastery.
e) Restoration project
A USD 2 000 000 UNESCO/Russian Federation Funds-in-Trust (FiT) on “Safeguarding of World Heritage Sites in Kosovo” has been established, with UNESCO as implementing agency. The main objective of the FiT is to contribute to the restoration of the monuments and cultural heritage and to strengthen the local capacities in the field of preservation of cultural heritage.