Construction of a road linking Kosovo to Montenegro has been suspended following objections that building was taking place in the protected area around the Visoki Decani Monastery.
On Wednesday, after a meeting between Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Bashkim Ramosaj, the Mayor of Decan, the pair agreed to suspend construction on a road connecting Decan with Montenegro.
“With the aim to find a solution agreed by all parties involved in this issue, we agreed to suspend the work on Road R208, which also includes in the protected zone close to the Monastery of Decan,” wrote Hoti.
The agreement between the government and the municipality came after a number of public disagreements over the construction of the road in recent days. On Tuesday, Hoti’s media adviser, Xhavit Beqiri, told BIRN that “construction has not been allowed,” despite work on the road resuming on Monday and continuing earlier this week
Hoti’s government said it would suspend the works on Friday after claims by Abbot Sava Janjic of the Serbian Orthodox Visoki Decani monastery that the building of the highway will endanger the medieval monastery, and violate the Law on Special Protected Areas.
Janjic told Voice of America that he is not against the road, on which building work started in 2018, but that it should not run past the monastery, which is located in a special protected area. “By law in special protected areas, such roads are prohibited due to environmental consequences, noise, heavy traffic, pollution and other things,” he explained.
The abbot argued that a bypass should be built, as first envisaged back in 2014.
“In 2014 the then Kosovo government found a solution to build a bypass that would run across the mountain along the protected area and then join the road at the point where the protected area ends,” he said.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic weighed in on the row on Saturday, saying that Belgrade would demand “an urgent and permanent suspension of construction work in the protected area of the Decani monastery” from both Kosovo representatives and European mediators at their next meeting in Brussels.
However, Bashkim Ramosaj, the mayor of Decan, told Voice of America on Tuesday that he did not support the suspension of the construction work, as it is important for the economic development of the town.
“This road connects us with two villages… which have no infrastructure at all,” Ramosaj said. “Simultaneously there are 12 informal settlements from which, traditionally, around 70 per cent of Decan’s citizens secure their livelihoods. We are talking about huge resources of livestock, tourism, wood processing and also the collection and processing of mountain fruits.”
The construction of the road is further complicated by the fact that it runs across land that the Constitutional Court of Kosovo ruled in 2016 belongs to the Visoki Decani monastery. However, the Constitutional Court’s decision has never been implemented by the municipality.
Abbot Janjic has also argued that the problems that the road could cause will exacerbate environmental degradation caused by the construction of hydropower plants in the protected area.
Officials of international organisations in Kosovo have repeatedly called for the Constitutional Court’s decision to be respected.
Security for the protected area around the Visoki Decani monastery is provided by troops from NATO’s Kosovo force, KFOR. Amid tensions over the road construction, KFOR’s commander, Major-General Michele Risi, met mayor Ramosaj and abbot Janjic separately on Saturday and stressed KFOR’s commitment to what he called “a peaceful and secure environment and freedom of movement for all communities in Kosovo.”
19 August 2020 - 13:34