OpEd

The monastery of Deçan as a turning point

The registration of the land belonging to the Monastery of Deçan - certified by the Constitutional Court and in a form by the cadastral office of Deçan itself - can mark a very big advancement of the perception and position of Kosovo as a European state, including membership in the Council of Europe. Without this act, Kosovo will continue to be treated in the area of ​​speculation

1.

What will the Monastery of Deçan look like in 2030?

I don't believe it will be in the EU - the whole Western Balkans is further away from membership than you think. However, in the EU or not, it is easy to predict that the Monastery of Deçan will be the same wonderful object built with Western sacral architecture for the needs of an Eastern sacral object. Likewise, it will be a living sacral object of the Serbian Orthodox Church, that it will be part of the religious and cultural heritage of the Serbian people in Kosovo and the Serbian people throughout the Western Balkans, that it will be part of the religious and cultural heritage of the Republic of Kosovo and its citizens, that it will be one of the important objects of world cultural heritage protected by UNESCO.

But I would like to imagine that the Monastery of Deçan had two special dimensions for Kosovo. One, to be an oasis of peace culture. Two, to be the turning point for Kosovo's European perspective.

The oasis of the culture of peace means that the Monastery of Deçan, with a wider and unspoilt territory of constructions, serves as a gathering place for cultural dialogue, that is, metaphysical. To be a trigger for meetings of architects, poets, painters and thinkers. To be visited by Albanian high school students to understand the importance of the religious narratives of the frescoes for Serbian, Byzantine culture, for Christianity as a whole. So, to understand an important dimension of the culture of the Republic of Kosovo.

And this is possible in a cooperation between the Monastery of Deçan and the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo, but possible only if the brotherhood of the Monastery and the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo feel comfortable with each other. And this is not the case today.

2.

This is where the second desired and potential dimension of Deçan Monastery enters, that of a European turning point. During this past quarter of a century, the Monastery of Deçan felt the legal uncertainty, therefore physical, with the non-registration of a property of 24 hectares of land around the Monastery that it considers its own. This land, considered contested during the occupation of Kosovo by Serbia and Milosevic, was legalized during the administration of UNMIK and then the contested legal process reached its final epilogue in the decision of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo. Legally, this case is over.

The legal decision in the highest act does not deal with the period before the establishment of UNMIK, but with the post-war procedure. In fact, the Constitutional Court finds that an agreement between KTA (Kosovar Trust Agency) and the Monastery of Deçan for the exchange of properties has been legally concluded. The monastery has given four plots in the center of the city to the Municipality of Deçan. These have even been registered in the Deçan Cadastre as municipal property, but the same has not yet been done with the 24 hectares of the Deçan Monastery. (More detailed information can be read in the newly published report of the ESI (Initiative for European Stability with headquarters in Berlin "A monastery, Kosovo courts and the road to the Council of Europe".)

So, there will be no more legal contestation of this issue; the land belongs to the Monastery of Deçan. And, the Cadastral Agency of Deçan has also accepted this in a form by registering four properties that have been legalized as properties of the Municipality of Deçan, as all legal instances have confirmed, including the Constitutional Court. Since this is the case, it remains for the Cadastral Agency of Deçan to register the rest of the legalized agreement in all legal instances, the one where the 24 hectares of forest and fields remain in exchange for the four plots that the Monastery gives to the Municipality.

3.

The registration of the property of Manastir already seems to be the turning point for Kosovo in many ways. I don't think so, the first has to do with the rule of law: state agencies must obey court decisions, moreover those of the highest instance such as the Constitutional Court, and the Cadastral Agency of Kosovo together with that of Deçan , subject to this state level, must implement this decision.

The second has to do with the feeling of mutual respect and legal security that the Kosovo authorities should have between themselves and the brotherhood of the Dečani Monastery and the Serbian Orthodox Church in general. The Constitutional Court made a decision in 2016 and the dilemmas in the public space that were connected all the time with the fact that the land was initially donated to the Dečani Monastery by the Government of Serbia in the years of occupation (1997) did not help to build mutual trust; the registration act can be an important turning point to imagine the Monastery of Deçan in the context of an oasis of the culture of peace, proven by the legal security offered by the Republic of Kosovo.

And, third, property registration could be a turning point for a European aspiration of Kosovo. In the final steps of the process of examining Kosovo's membership in the Council of Europe, the registration of the property of the Deçan Monastery would be a very necessary sign for Kosovo's commitment both to the rule of law and to building trust between cultures and religions. hers. Without this signal from Kosovo, no step forward for membership in the Council of Europe can be made.

4.

One of the most important decisions for Kosovo's foreign policy and its European journey is completely ripe to be taken. Even, in its three dimensions, of proving the strengthening of the Republic of Kosovo as a state of law, of sensitivity to cultures and religions and of dialogue between them, and finally, of proving the country's European path.