Two former army headquarters hit by NATO’s air strikes on Belgrade and preserved as monuments are in danger of collapse and could be sold off to investors.
Serbia’s urban planning and construction ministry warned that the buildings that were hit by NATO missiles in May 1999 were now in danger of falling down during bad weather and said that “urgent repair” was needed.
The crumbling ruins could pose “a huge danger to the safety of people and traffic”, the ministry said in a statement after a recent inspection of the former army headquarters in the centre of the Serbian capital.
Both buildings, which were bombed during NATO’s campaign of air strikes aimed at ending Serbia’s war in Kosovo, were added to the country’s cultural heritage list of protected monuments in 2005.
Defence minister Aleksandar Vucic announced last month that a luxury hotel would be built at the site, possibly as part of a massive investment programme in Serbia expected to be launched by businessmen from the United Arab Emirates.
Although the official process to remove the two buildings’ protected status has not yet started, according to Serbian law, a listed building can be repaired without changing its status as a cultural monument.
Serbia’s culture ministry said that the buildings should retain their current external appearance but that areas behind their facades could be redeveloped.
According to the law on listed buildings, “the exterior of the building must be left intact and that the construction cannot be demolished”, said deputy culture minister Miladin Lukic.
“However, its purpose can be changed,” he said.
Urban planning and construction minister Velimir Ilic said the recent inspection showed that the buildings were becoming increasingly decrepit.
“All of the protective scaffoldings are out of date and the internal metal framework is rotten,” Ilic told RTS, adding that tons of concrete had already sunk by around 15 to 20 centimetres.