Yesterday, the world observed the International Day for Monuments and Sites. On this occasion, the Permanent Delegation of Serbia to the UNESCO pointed out the importance of preserving the world’s cultural heritage, in particular the medieval monuments in Kosovo.

“The International Day for Monuments and Sites is another reminder of the importance of preserving cultural heritage around the world, and the necessity of protecting the incredibly beautiful and priceless medieval monuments in Kosovo and Metohija, listed on the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger,” the Delegation stated.

Three monasteries in Kosovo are under UNESCO protection — the Patriarchate of Peć Monastery, the Visoki Dečani Monastery, and the Gračanica Monastery, as well as the Our Lady of Ljeviš Church in Prizren.

These cultural monuments have been recognized on the List of World Heritage since 2004, and on the List of World Heritage in Danger since 2006.

Most recently, the UNESCO Committee for World Heritage decided in August of last year that these locations should remain on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Owing to that decision, the Organization denied the request by the Kosovo leadership asking to have these four Serbian Orthodox Church structures removed from that list, put under Kosovo’s jurisdiction, and not be designated as the “Autonomous Municipality of Kosovo”.

One of the protected monasteries, the Visoki Dečani, was added last year to the Europa Nostra list as one of the most endangered cultural heritage sites in Europe. On that occasion, several Priština dignitaries wrote to that organization, requesting that it revoke its decision.

Justifying their decision, Europa Nostra expressed concern over the “constant threat of inappropriate local development”, i.e. the plans to build the Dečani-Plav road across a specially protected area of the monastery, and reminded of the subsequent agreement to build a bypass. At the same time, they pointed out that the 2016 Kosovo Constitutional Court decision confirming that the monastery disposed of 24 hectares of land was not being upheld.

Effectively, the Kosovo authorities persistently refuse to uphold the Kosovo Constitutional Court decision regarding the monastery land, drawing constant criticism by the Eparchy of Raška and Prizren and foreign embassies in Kosovo, which was also recently pointed out in the latest State Department report on human rights.

The latest controversy on this issue started only a few days ago, when Hajrulla Çeku, Minister of Culture of Kosovo, reiterated that even though the Constitutional Court’s decisions should be upheld, nothing may be taken for granted.