Donors gathered in Paris today for a United Nations conference to raise €40 million (euros) to repair and restore 75 cultural and religious monuments in Kosovo destroyed or damaged during the 1998-99 war and subsequent violence, or which have simply fallen into disrepair.
Among the sites singled out are 48 Orthodox monuments, 14 Islamic/Ottoman monuments and 13 examples of vernacular architecture and other historic sites, including the Decani monastery, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2004. Dating from the 14th century, the Romanesque Byzantine church houses numerous Romanesque Gothic sculptures and some 60 icons, and its interior is almost entirely covered in remarkable frescos of more than 1,000 saints.
Søren Jessen-Petersen, head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said: "Respect for preservation and reconstruction of cultural and religious sites is an integral part of the process of improving and consolidating relations between the different communities in Kosovo, particularly between the Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb communities."
He added that it was important for the sites to be preserved and protected not only because they were important symbols for the different communities but also because they had intrinsic value in themselves.
"These religious and vernacular sites belong, not only to the cultural heritage in Kosovo, but also to Europe and the world, and therefore must be preserved for future generations," he told the conference, organized by UNMIK, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Council of Europe and the European Commission.
Mr. Jessen-Petersen assured donors that UNMIK and the international force for Kosovo (KFOR) were doing all that was necessary to ensure that the security environment remained as stable as possible. "We have placed 47 cultural heritage sites under protection throughout Kosovo and all of these sites receive regular patrols and security checks, while others are under full time international police and KFOR protection," he said.