Donors meeting at UNESCO pledge US$10 million for the restoration of cultural heritage in KosovoDonors gathered at the first international conference for cultural heritage in Kosovo (1) have pledged US$10 million for the restoration, protection and enhancement of Christian and Islamic monuments and traditional secular buildings in Kosovo, whether damaged or in need of emergency restoration (2).
The conference organized by UNESCO in collaboration with the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), the Council of Europe and the European Commission, brought together more than 50 Member States and 15 foundations and nongovernmental organizations. The main donors – beside the European Commission, which already allotted Euro 2 million, and the Provisional Institutions of Self Government of Kosovo, which already allotted Euro 5.7 million – are: the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Sweden, Turkey and the United States. Some countries, like Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Netherlands, Portugal, as wells three non-governmental organizations, pledged technical, professional and institutional assistance. Other Member States expressed their intention to contribute financially to this joint effort after having studied in depth the proposals contained in the working document provided to them and whose quality they praised.
UNESCO favours “an integrated vision which recognizes cultural heritage as vitally important in its own right but also as a vector of national dialogue and reconciliation,” declared UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura. He went on to speak of the recent mission the Organization sent to Prizren in Kosovo, from May 6 to 12, for the restoration of the 14th century church of Bogorodica Ljeviska.
The participants agreed on the need to consider Kosovo’s cultural heritage as a whole and not to fund its conservation on the basis of religious or ethnic criteria. To this end, the Director-General of UNESCO suggested that UNESCO – in close cooperation with the Council of Europe, the European Commission and UNMIK, alongside all the partners and representatives of the Member States concerned – develop an action plan mapping out priorities and measures, both medium and long-term, for the protection and restoration of the cultural heritage of Kosovo.
Søren Jessen-Petersen, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Kosovo, declared: “It is important for these cultural heritage sites to be preserved and protected not only because they are important symbols for the different communities who reside in Kosovo today, but also because they have intrinsic value in themselves. These religious and vernacular sites belong, not only to the cultural heritage in Kosovo, but also to Europe and the world, and therefore must be preserved for future generations.”
“We believe that the restoration [of damaged sites and monuments] will also encourage reconciliation and a new dialogue among communities living in Kosovo and facilitate the return of displaced persons,” declared Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Director General, Division of Education, Culture and Cultural Heritage, Youth and Sport at the Council of Europe, who spoke on behalf of Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
Fabrizio Barbaso, Acting Director General of the European Commission, for his part, said that “the mutual respect and preservation of cultural heritage of all communities are prerequisites to the establishment of a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society. They are fundamental principles that have to govern our societies. They are certainly principles of Europe and of European integration, which is the ultimate objective of the Western Balkans.”
He also announced that following the recent cooperation agreement between Kosovo Provisional Institutions and the Serbian Orthodox Church, the European Agency for Reconstruction will implement the spending of Euro 2 million earmarked last autumn for the restoration of churches damaged or destroyed during the violent events of March 2004.
2:http://www.unesco.org/culture/heritage/kosovo1 http://www.unesco.org/culture/heritage/kosovo2 et http:// www.coe.int