News 22 Apr 14

Kosovo to Demolish Disputed Milosevic-Era Church

Kosovo's Minister of Environment, Dardan Gashi, says Serbian church built in Pristina in the 1990s had no planning permit and must be pulled down.

BIRN
Pristina
The Sveti Nikola church in Pristina.

Minister Gashi told media on Sunday that a controversial Serbian Orthodox church, built in the capital, Pristina, was erected “illegally” and must go.

“It’s a sensitive issue but the legal basis has to be the same as for every building. This building had no planning permission and will therefore be treated like every other building with no permission,” he said.

The Serbian authorities in the era of Slobodan Milosevic started to build the Sveti Nikola Church in 1995, but work was interrupted by the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict.

The unfinished building, close to the University of Pristina, has remained in the same half-finished state ever since.

In September 2012, the University of Pristina sued the Serbian Orthodox Church, accusing it of illegally occupying more than four hectares of land where the church was built.

But no final court verdict has been issued on the case and, in spite of the minister's words, it remains unclear how authorities will proceed.

The Serbian Orthodox Church’s Raska-Prizren eparchy, which is in charge of the church, said meanwhile that the minister’s statement was “a provocation aimed at disrupting inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations” in Kosovo.

The eparchy denied that the church was illegal, saying that it had all the documents required for the building.

It also said that the Serbian Orthodox church has already received confirmation from the authorities in Pristina and international institutions that the building work will continue, and that Gashi’s statement was simply aimed at trying to win political support ahead of upcoming elections in Kosovo.

A number of Serbian Orthodox monuments in Kosovo have been placed under the protection of international missions in Kosovo.

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