The Serbian Orthodox Visoki Decani Monastery in Kosovo, January 2013. Photo: EPA-EFE/Valdrin Xhemaj.

Kosovo Court Ruling Awarding Serb Monastery Disputed Land Implemented

Almost eight years after the Constitutional Court ruled that 24 contested hectares of land in western Kosovo belong to the Serbian Orthodox Visoki Decani Monastery, the ownership was officially registered after Council of Europe pressure on Pristina.

The Raska-Prizren Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church confirmed on Wednesday that the 24 hectares of land that have been long the subject of dispute have been officially registered in Kosovo’s Central Cadastre as the property of Visoki Decani Monastery.

The diocese said it received an official cadastral extract “including all properties of the Decani Monastery, encompassing the 24 hectares recognised [as belonging] to the monastery by the decision of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo in 2016”.

“Based on the cadastral extract, we can confirm that the decision of the Constitutional Court from 2016 has been executed and that in the Cadastre, the monastery is recognised as the owner of the property that was previously disputed,” the diocese said in a press release.

“We can conclude that the long-standing legal process surrounding the 24 hectares of land of the Visoki Decani Monastery has finally been resolved,” it added.

Despite the 2016 court ruling confirming that the land belongs to the 14th-century monastery, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kosovo government refused to implement the decision for eight ears.

On March 13 this year, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti finally confirmed that the government had told the Cadastre to implement it.

Kurti said he had acted under pressure from the Council of Europe, which had made progress on the Constitutional Court ruling a condition for Kosovo’s membership.

“It was made clear to us that we have to choose between two options: to implement the decision of the Constitutional Court and allow us to move forward with the goal of membership in the Council of Europe this year, or to remove the issue of Kosovo from the membership agenda and therefore to give up a democratic goal of building the state,” Kurti said.

In its statement welcoming the implementation, the Raska-Prizren Diocese thanked Dora Bakoyannis, rapporteur for the political affairs committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Kosovo’s application for membership, and “to everyone else who contributed to the successful resolution”.

The monastery, near the town of Decan/Decani, has been protected by NATO peacekeepers since the 1998-99 Kosovo war, when NATO intervened with air strikes to drive out Yugoslav troops and Serbian forces that had been killing and expelling ethnic Albanian civilians.

20/03/2024 - 12:39

20 March 2024 - 12:39

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.