News 18 Sep 17

Kosovo Slates Serbian Film Attacking its UNESCO Bid

The Kosovo prime minister's office has condemned a Serbian documentary film that attacks Pristina's bid to join the UN cutural body UNESCO as offensive.

Maja Zivanovic

Kosovo PM Ramush Haradinaj. Photo: Beta/AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu.

Kosovo authorities have condemned a new film, produced under the sponsorship of the Serbian government, attacking Pristina's bid to join the UN's cultural wing, UNESCO.

The prime minister's office called “A Moment in Civilisation” an offensive gesture, timed deliberately to undermine its bid to join the UN body.

“The screening of a documentary film with offensive content about Kosovo before the ambassadors of UNESCO member states [in Paris] ... is [part of] a continuous effort to denigrate the state of Kosovo,” the prime minister’s office said on Sunday.

The film, shown at the Serbian Cultural Centre in Paris on Friday, focuses on Serb cultural heritage in Kosovo - and Kosovo's treatment of this heritage - as part of a wider campaign to stop Kosovo from joining UNESCO.

The Serbian government's office for Kosovo supported the filming of the documentary.

The Kosovo prime minister's office also disputed the idea that Serb monuments and churches in Kosovo were Serbian property.

“Religious and cultural buildings in Kosovo are part of the country's heritage and cannot be alienated [from it]. They belong to the state of Kosovo and its citizens ... Only Kosovo’s citizens and institutions have the right to decide upon Kosovo's property,” it said.

After failing to get enough votes from UNESCO member states to join in 2015, the Kosovo government has been making preparations for a possible second bid this year.

However, Serbia opposes all moves by its former province, whose independence it does not recognise, to join international bodies.

The Serbian Orthodox Church maintains that 176 monasteries and churches have been either burned or destroyed in Kosovo since Serbia was forced to withdraw from the then province in 1999.

Many of these attacks occurred in the March 2004 riots, when about 30 churches were burned in anti-Serbi unrest.

Since then, protection of Orthodox churches and monasteries has shifted from NATO peacekeepers to the Kosovo police.

However, many in the Serb community complain that their cultural and religious monuments are not in safe hands.

The head of the Serbian office for kosovo, Marko Djuric, called the hostile reaction from Pristina “the first big award” for the movie.

“We will continue to support projects that tell the truth about our legacy in Kosovo,” Djuric told Serbia's Tanjug news agency on Sunday, congratulating the team that made the film.

The producer and author of the movie, Boris Malagurski, is well known in Serbia for his #NoKosovoUnesco campaign.

He wrote on Twitter in reaction to the row that he would “organise a showing of the film in prison” for Kosovo's new Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj, referring to Serbia's allegation that former guerrilla leader Haradinaj is a war criminal.

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