RECOMMENDATION 1239 (1994)1 on the cultural situation
in the former Yugoslavia
1.Europe is witnessing with disbelief, outrage and great sorrow the collapse of
European civilisation and values in the parts of the former Yugoslavia affected by the
conflicts that have developed following the initial Serbian aggression in
Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.
2.The loss of human life and the physical and mental suffering of those involved have
already attracted the attention of the world community and the many humanitarian
organisations that exist.
3.The Assembly wishes now to draw attention also to the cultural aspects of the
situation that have been too readily ignored in the political assessment of the conflict
and in the over-restrictive interpretation of the scope of humanitarian assistance.
4.The cultural dimension is, however, constantly exploited by all sides as a means of
fuelling the conflict, as a target for intervention, and as a weapon. The war is
characterised as a conflict between Catholic, Muslim and Orthodox; religious property is
deliberately desecrated or destroyed; the media play on and exacerbate these same
divisions, that are not part of the power struggle at the heart of the conflict. Cultural
cleansing goes hand in hand with ethnic cleansing.
5.The siege of Sarajevo and the deliberate destruction of the Old Bridge of Mostar are
particularly repugnant examples, as they represent direct rejection of the possibility of
intercultural co-existence that these cities represented. Such cultural co-existence is
basic to the values of the Council of Europe and to the plan of action currently being
launched for tolerance.
6.The cultural dimension and the spirit of tolerance remain alive in the former
Yugoslavia and must urgently be given support.
7.The Assembly welcomes the mission that has been set up by Unesco for all the areas
covered by this recommendation. It looks forward to the mission becoming operational and
calls on the Committee of Ministers to ensure close co-ordination with any action by the
Council of Europe.
8.The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers also recognise the cultural
dimension as an area for urgent international intervention in the former Yugoslavia and
that it press for co-ordinated action by the Council of Europe, by other competent
international bodies (including Unesco) and by member states.
9.One priority is that intergovernmental bodies in the area (the European Community
Monitor Mission (ECMM), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the
United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR)) should recognise and pay attention to the
cultural dimension. The Committee of Ministers should, through the appropriate channels,
encourage these bodies that are responsible for assuring the conveyance of material and
personnel to accept the inclusion of material and persons relevant for assistance in the
cultural field and ensure that governments provide them with the means to do so. The ECMM
in particular should be encouraged to develop its role of monitoring (in co-operation with
the local monument authorities) and ensuring the flow of this information and of assisting
fact-finding missions in the cultural field (heritage and others).
10.Another priority is that the Committee of Ministers extend recognition as successors
to the European Cultural Convention to all the states of the former Yugoslavia without
exception. This is necessary in order to ensure that these states are properly consulted
on decisions and action that may concern them in the field covered by the convention.
11.A third priority is increased funding for cultural action in the areas affected by
conflict. This should not be left to the generosity of the general public nor to certain
private initiatives. In the light of the commitment given at the Vienna Summit to
promotion of tolerance, the Committee of Ministers should ask the European Commission
against Racism and Intolerance to develop practical projects for promoting intercultural
co-existence in the former Yugoslavia.
12.The Assembly also recommends that the Committee of Ministers initiate action in the
following more specific fields:
13.All is not yet destroyed, but much is damaged. Temporary protection can be provided,
but materials are lacking, and assistance in damage assessment and the drawing up of
priority intervention plans is needed. Measures should in particular be taken for the
safeguarding of moveable cultural property.
14.Plans have to be made, and funds collected, for the much more extensive
reconstruction that will only be possible once fighting has moved away from an afflicted
area. Where practicable and appropriate, reconstruction should then be begun, as in the
region of Vukovar where the example of private initiatives in other areas could be
15.Member states should make experts available to assist in the training and
organisation of restoration work conducted by the national and local bodies responsible.
16.The plan of action established by the Cultural Heritage Committee of the Council for
Cultural Co-operation (CDCC) for Croatia and Slovenia should be reinforced to include
questions of regional planning and should be extended to other parts of the former
17.The Committee of Ministers should also set up an appropriate structure to monitor
the illegal dispersal of works of art moved from the former Yugoslavia in the course of
the current conflict.
18.It should give its support to the international effort to reconstitute the National
and University Library of Sarajevo and should provide assistance for the administrative
19.The Assembly draws the attention of the Committee of Ministers to the information
reports that the Committee on Culture and Education has issued over the past year. It
believes that its monitoring of the situation has served a useful purpose, but asks that
it be given a more permanent and substantial basis.
20.Basic material assistance is urgently needed to keep the independent media
functioning: fuel for generators, paper, blank cassettes and other equipment for
television, radio and the printed press.
21.Support should be given to practical projects, such as the networking of independent
correspondents in the whole area (AIM) and the Co-ordination Centre in Ljubljana. Through
the appropriate channels, the Committee of Ministers should invite the United Nations
authorities to provide technical support systems for the media for independent news
broadcasting under the supervision of "media blue helmets".
22.The Committee of Ministers should allocate further support to these initiatives and
in addition should encourage the Commission of the European Communities to extend the
Phare-Democracy programme, that is at present restricted to independent media in Slovenia,
to the rest of the former Yugoslavia, as requested by the European Parliament.
23.For its own part, the Assembly should regularly send observer missions of
parliamentarians accompanied by invited journalists to areas of conflict in order to
ensure objective reporting.
24.The continuing conflict has seriously impaired educational provision in the areas
affected. Schools and universities have been damaged; staff need replacement or
retraining. Yet it is essential that classes and courses continue for the sake of the
children and students concerned.
25.A different problem is faced by the children and students who have been moved
outside the areas of fighting. As far as possible, they should be able to continue their
education in the refugee camps or at least in the neighbourhood, where tuition in their
own language can more easily be provided.
26.In conjunction with local groups responsible for education and organisations such as
Unicef, programmes for peace education, tolerance and co-existence should be developed.
27.In addition, for students with foreign language capabilities, the governments of all
member states should be invited to assist universities in taking in students from the
affected area. This assistance should take the form of both financial and administrative
28.A degree of flexibility should be shown in recognising refugee student status and in
the administration of education and related assistance. On the other hand return to the
area of origin, once the conflict is over, should be retained as a basic principle.
29.The Assembly endorses the proposals adopted by the Standing Conference of European
Ministers of Education in Madrid in March 1994 regarding the situation of refugee or
displaced pupils and students in the former Yugoslavia.
30.It calls on the Committee of Ministers:
i.to seek, in co-operation with the European Union, with Unicef and with Unesco, ways
of assisting school children and reconstructing the education systems in the former
ii.to collaborate with universities and interested non-governmental bodies in
assistance to the universities and to refugee or displaced students of the former
iii.to encourage member states to contribute to the special account opened within the
The arts and artists
31.Cultural life continues in the countries affected by the fighting and in particular
in Sarajevo, which is again holding its Winter Festival. The cultural community of writers
and artists throughout Europe supports this activity and so does the Assembly. The
Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe should give its support where that of the
European Union has proved so sadly lacking.
32.Of particular importance is the establishment and maintenance of cultural corridors
for artists and their works between the affected areas and the outside world.
33.The Council of Europe, in co-operation with Unesco, should examine the possibility
of setting up a foundation for commissioning artists of various disciplines to depict the
drama of the former Yugoslavia.
34.The Assembly calls on the Committee of Ministers to invite the leaders of the
different religions affected by the current conflict to play a more active role in
pressures for peace, tolerance and intercultural understanding.
35.The Assembly recognises the importance of European solidarity at local and regional
levels. It welcomes the action being taken by the Standing Conference of Local and
Regional Authorities of Europe further to its Resolution 251 (1993) on humanitarian action
and aid to local democracy in the former Yugoslavia, and calls on the Committee of
Ministers to provide means for reinforcing the co-ordination of such action in the
cultural field, in particular through twinning arrangements.
36.Finally, the Assembly asks the Committee of Ministers to report regularly on the
implementation of these recommendations.
1. Assembly debate on 14 April 1994 (15th Sitting) (see Doc. 6989,
report of the Committee on Culture and Education, Rapporteur: Mrs Fischer).
Text adopted by the Assembly on 14 April 1994 (15th Sitting).