news 21 Apr 17

Kosovo Ignores Call to Enforce Monastery’s Land Claim

Authorities in Pristina have remained silent after the EU called for enforcement of a court ruling that upheld a Serbian Orthodox monastery’s claim to disputed land, angering some Kosovo Albanians.

Die Morina
BIRN
Pristina
The Visoki Decani monastery. Photo: Visoki Decani monastery.

The Kosovo government has declined to respond to an appeal from the EU office in Pristina to enforce a ruling of the country’s Constitutional Court on a land dispute case involving the Serbian Orthodox monastery at Decan/Decani in western Kosovo.

The judgment issued in May 2016 said the land in the dispute belonged to the monastery and not to two private companies.

The office of Prime Minister Isa Mustafa did not respond to a BIRN query about the EU call.

But sources close to the prime minister’s office told BIRN on condition of anonymity that the government plans to ignore the ruling, which is unpopular among Kosovo Albanians.

On Thursday, the EU office expressed concern over the “continued lack of implementation of this ruling” and condemned “any actions to block access to or otherwise disrupt life at the Visoki Decani monastery”.

“The EU calls on authorities at all levels to demonstrate respect for the rule of law as a fundamental democratic principle. Full implementation of the ruling should take place without delay,” it said.

The mayor of the Decan/Decani municipality, Rasim Selmanaj, which contests the Serbian Orthodox Church’s right to the land, said that while the rule of law must be respected, the municipality had no intention of honouring “influential and illegal decisions.

“We remain ready for good relations with the monastery, but not for giving away properties that stifle the economic development of Decan,” Selmanaj said.

The League of Kosovo Historians’ office in Decan/Decani also condemned the statement by the EU office, saying that decisions about land made in the era of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic from 1989 to 1999 were “unenforceable in our country”.

The land was the focus of demonstrations in 2012 after the Supreme Court ruled that the disputed 24 hectares belonged to the monastery and not to two Kosovo companies, which have claimed it ever since the Kosovo war ended in 1999.

After 16 years of litigation, the Constitutional Court in May last year confirmed the monastery’s right to the 24 hectares, equal to 59 acres.

The ruling by the Constitutional Court sparked protests by Kosovo Albanians, some of them holding up banners reading: “The Constitutional Court Trespassed on Justice.”

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