The Visoki Decani Monastery. | Photo: BIRN.

Kosovo to Implement Court Ruling Awarding Serbian Monastery Disputed Land

Prime Minister Albin Kurti said court ruling awarding 24 hectares of land to the Visoki Decani Serbian Orthodox monastery must be implemented – as the price of Kosovo's accession to the Council of Europe.

The Kosovo government has told the Cadastral Agency to implement a 2016 Constitutional Court ruling awarding land to a Serbian Orthodox monastery.

“Today we told the Cadastral Agency of Kosovo to implement the decision of the Constitutional Court,” Prime Minister Albin Kurti announced, adding that “the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Donika Gervalla, has sent the Council of Europe a verbal note informing about this matter”.

The US envoy for the Balkans Gabriel Escobar, in a joint press conference with Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani, in Pristina during a visit in Kosovo on Wednesday, welcomed the decision.

“Today’s decision on the monastery is as difficult as it is important and I thank the institutions for this step,” Escobar said. One day earlier, in an online press briefing from Brussels, announcing his visit to the region, Escobar said that the US currently had “a problem with communication with the Prime Minister” of Kosovo.

Escobar said Kosovo has a problem “in its communication with the European Union, NATO, UK, United States and with many other partners including Albania and North Macedonia”, emphasizing that the US and Kosovo partnership “is between the people of the United States and Kosovo, it doesn’t run through one man or party”.

A 2016 court ruling confirmed that 24 hectares of disputed land belongs to the 14th-century monastery of Visoki Decani, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On Wednesday, Kurti said he had acted under pressure from the Council of Europe, which had made progress on the 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.

Recalling his objection to the court ruling, describing it as “harmful”, Kurti said: “Kosovo’s membership in the Council of Europe would not only be a historic victory but also a giant step for our republic towards recognition by the European five [EU countries that do not recognize Kosovo] which enables membership of NATO and the EU.”

The five non-recognising EU countries are Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Greece and Cyprus.

Since the 1998-99 Kosovo war, when NATO intervened with air strikes to drive out Serbian forces that had been killing and expelling civilians during a brutal counter-insurgency campaign, the monastery has been protected by NATO peacekeepers.

13/03/2024 - 14:19

13 March 2024 - 14:19

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