Mar 03, 2017

Kosova: Contemplating a Renewed Bid for UNESCO

Photo courtesy of UNESCO

By June of 2017, Kosovo will decide whether or not to renew its bid to join the United Nations’ cultural body, UNESCO. This comes two years after Pristina’s unsuccessful attempt in 2015, when it did not garner enough international support and fell only three votes short of the required two-thirds majority among member states. Legislation regarding issues such as cultural heritage and religious freedom may play a role in the success of a renewed application.


The article below was published by Balkan Insight:

Kosovo’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Valon Murtezaj, told BIRN Kosovo’s TV programme ‘Jeta ne Kosove’ that Pristina is considering a renewed bid to join the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation after it failed to secure enough support in a vote in November 2015.

Murtezaj said however that the government has not decided whether to apply again this year or not.

“We have a team working on this issue. It is an internal team that has been working for a long time. Now we know many things that we did not know before; we also now have a strategy for cultural heritage approved by the government,” said Murtezaj.

The application has to be ready in June if it is to be filed this year.

But according to Greece’s former ambassador in Kosovo, Dimitris Moschopoulos, who assisted the Pristina government in preparing the previous UNESCO membership bid campaign, Kosovo must focus on having the necessary legislation in order to avoid another failure.

Moschopoulos cited the law on culture heritage and the law on religions which need to be approved by parliament.

“There are some pieces of the process that still have to be adopted. My advice is to go ahead with an application, but make sure you have all the pieces of legislation that are necessary,” Moschopoulos said.

Murtezaj said that the legislation needs approval from two-thirds of MPs, but also from two-thirds of ethnic minority MPS - which means it cannot be passed until Serb MPs from the Lista Srpska bloc end their current boycott of parliament.

Moschopoulos said that Kosovo’s last bid did not succeed because the Pristina government did not persuade UNESCO member states that Serb churches and monasteries would be properly protected.

“It failed to convince the international community that it provides full protection to the Serbian religious and culture heritage in its territory,” he said.

Moschopoulos was referring to unrest in March 2004 when several Serbian Orthodox churches were set on fire by Kosovo Albanian mobs. Nineteen people, including 12 Kosovo Albanians, were killed during two days of violence.

Hajrulla Ceku from Prizren-based NGO Ec Ma Ndryshe, which deals with cultural heritage, insisted however that Kosovo had already taken action to pay compensation.

“[Kosovo gave] around 10 million euros for the restoration of burned churches in 2004, [launched] hundreds of lawsuits against the perpetrators at that time, dozens of years of imprisonment, while Serbia did not initiate any judicial process for the damage to Kosovo’s cultural heritage [during the war] in 1998-1999” stated Ceku.

The unrest in 2004 was used by the Serbian government as part of its lobbying effort against Kosovo’s UNESCO membership bid.

But Aleksandar Pavlovic, a researcher from University of Belgrade and coordinator of a project on Serb-Albanian relations called ‘Figuring out the Enemy’, argued that “Kosovo overestimates Serbia, because it is not that powerful”.

Pavlovic added however that the destruction of the Orthodox churches in 2004 was a significant factor that swayed opinion among UNESCO member states.