Doc. 9321

21 January 2002

Cultural situation in Kosovo

Recommendation 1511 (2001)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 780th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (16 January 2002)

The Committee of Ministers has studied with interest and attention Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1511 (2001) on the cultural situation in Kosovo.

The Committee of Ministers is convinced, like the Parliamentary Assembly, that culture and education are amongst the first victims of any conflict, being at the same time very efficient long-term means for the prevention of conflicts as they help to eradicate the stereotypes, prejudices and intolerance which lead to them. This is true when culture and education are used for their true purposes. Misused, they contribute to causing conflicts. This is why human rights, humanistic values and a sense of shared citizenship need to underpin future education provision in Kosovo.

As regards paragraph 11 of the Recommendation, the Council of Europe will continue to give its support to the assistance programmes in Kosovo in the field of education, at primary but also secondary and university levels, drawing on its experience in educational policy development, which would take into account the need for enhancing employment possibilities with a view to boosting economic recovery, history teaching, language-related programmes and education for democratic citizenship. In the cultural field, particularly heritage (notably, restoration of archaeological sites), the Council of Europe’s prime responsibility is to insist on the application of its own standard-setting instruments and on the ethical values of cultural heritage conservation. The work on the principle of recognising the universal value and guaranteeing equal treatment of the heritage of the various communities co-existing within a territory, or having left their mark on it, have considerably advanced. The results of this work may be put to practical use in Kosovo.

In this latter context, particular attention should be drawn to a Declaration on the protection and rebuilding of places of worship in Kosovo and the wider Balkans, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 18 July 2001, in which “the Committee of Ministers expresses heartfelt indignation about the acts of destruction and violence perpetrated against places of worship, most recently in Kosovo, which are central to Europe’s historical and cultural heritage. The Committee of Ministers urges those responsible to ensure the protection of the places of worship and to help in their reconstruction, as symbols of a possible return of mutual confidence and of harmonious coexistence between peoples, nationalities, ethnic groups and religions. It underlines the importance of restoring the original character and architectural style of places of worship which have been destroyed or abandoned.”

The text continues: “The Committee of Ministers points to the Council of Europe’s action to safeguard and rehabilitate the cultural heritage of south-eastern Europe, inter alia through a comprehensive action plan which began to be put into practice in 2000. It appeals to the international community to mobilise so that concerted action is taken to protect and rebuild places of worship in Kosovo and the wider Balkans: UNESCO’s plan for a programme of restoration of Kosovo’s religious monuments is a first encouraging step towards this objective.”

In this respect, the Committee of Ministers wishes to inform the Parliamentary Assembly that, through its GR-C, it has initiated a comprehensive examination of the question of cultural heritage, diversity, identity and cultural rights as a follow-up to the Conferences of Helsinki and Portorož of the Ministers responsible for cultural heritage.

As regards paragraph 12.i, it should be noted that drafting a legal framework for provisional self-government for Kosovo is not the Council of Europe’s mandate.

As regards paragraphs 12 (ii)-12 (viii), the Council of Europe has been working continuously on the questions raised in them. Specifically, one should mention that the Council of Europe has developed a draft legislation for higher and general education within the context of a World Bank-sponsored project. The Council of Europe is also closely co-operating on this subject with the UNMIK. For both organisations, education legislation is a priority, especially following the Kosovo-wide elections for provisional self-government in November 2001. The new constitutional framework provides opportunities for a democratic education system to develop. Several encouraging developments have taken place, such as the unification of the University of Pristina through the abolition of faculty autonomy, the introduction of a progressive university statute, rigorous insistence upon administrative and academic competence, and the start of a process of structural reform on the basis of the principles of the Bologna Declaration and best European practice. The creation of a network of schools of Political Studies is planned for South East Europe and would include Kosovo.

In 2000, in the framework of the MOSAIC project (“Managing and Open Strategic Approach in Culture” – a project which aims at assisting authorities of South Eastern Europe in ensuring the development of their cultural policies) four experts missions were organised in order to make a precise evaluation of the situation of the cultural sector in Kosovo.

As a result, the first concrete assistance activities were implemented in 2001 in close co-operation with the Department of Culture of the UNMIK, and with the support of other international organisations such as the UNESCO or the Open Society Institute.

In 2001 in the framework of the MOSAIC project:

      – Council of Europe experts have contributed to the preparation and the drafting of Legal and Administrative Instructions for the Performing Arts in Kosovo and Legal and Administrative Instructions for Libraries in Kosovo; -a

-       a training seminar for librarians from Kosovo was organised in Pristina in March 2001. It was followed by a training seminar and a study visit in Budapest (November 2001) organised in close co-operation with the Hungarian Ministry of National Cultural Heritage;

      – representatives from Kosovo were invited to all the multilateral activities organised in the framework of MOSAIC (seminar on privatisation of national cultural institutions, seminar on cultural enterprise, evaluation seminar, etc.).Fo

Following the fruitful co-operation in 2001, the Department of Culture of the UNMIK has expressed the wish to intensify Kosovo's participation in the MOSAIC project. Two request for assistance in 2002 have already been made:

      – an evaluation of the state of theatres/cinemas in Kosovo from a technical perspective in order to develop a strategy for opening them again (only 2 out of 30 are functioning at present);–

      – training for theatre managers.Pa

Paragraph 6 of the Recommendation touches on the fields of media, youth and sport programmes. It should be mentioned that all questions concerning media are directly handled in Pristina by the Media Affairs department of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo. The Council of Europe, though, had sponsored a training programme for journalists and other staff members of Radio-Television-Kosovo, a relatively new public broadcaster established in Kosovo with the assistance of the international community, organised by the European Broadcasting Union in Pristina from 10 January to 5 February 2000.

As for youth programmes, a long-term project (October 2001-Spring 2002) is carried out for the Kosovar Albanian youth leaders and the Kosovar Serbian youth leaders with the aim of helping young people in Kosovo to participate in the building of peaceful democratic society. The Council of Europe Youth and Sport Directorate maintains a close co-operation with the UNMIK youth department in terms of exchange of information and ideas on the implementation of youth policy in Kosovo.

As regards the sports activities, the Council of Europe Sport Department has contributed to a number of national initiatives in Kosovo, for example “Fun Football Schools” or a programme of street sport which provided recreation for children.

APPENDIX

Opinion by the CDCC on Parliamentary Recommendation 1511 (2001) on the cultural situation in Kosovo

The Council for Cultural Co-operation (CDCC) is convinced that culture and education are a most efficient long-term means for the prevention of all conflicts as they help to eradicate the stereotypes, prejudices and intolerance which lead to them. This is true of the best forms of culture and education, while the worst forms play an important role in causing conflicts. This is why human rights, humanistic values and a sense of shared citizenship need to underpin future education provision in Kosovo, and why the work of the Council of Europe in this field should be strengthened.

Bringing culture back to life and re-establishing an educational system will need urgent support. Promoting a policy of equity in the schooling of all Kosovo children, raising awareness of cultural diversity as a richness, must be considered as priority.

The Parliamentary Assembly’s recommendation draws attention to the replacement of old buildings - in particular religious ones - with new constructions funded by third countries, which differ completely from the local traditional style of architecture.

The local cultural heritage is inadequately taken into account in political stabilisation and economic development strategies (reconstruction, return of refugees and displaced persons, rehabilitation of housing, employment, etc.).

However, in spite of years of neglect, the recent war, the damage inflicted, and possibly misguided choices in the reconstruction process now under way, Kosovo still has a rich built heritage, of importance to the development of this part of Europe. The country's historical monuments are clearly of a high quality, but Kosovo's "ordinary" urban and rural heritage is ill-known and ill-appreciated.

Although some of the heritage has been recognised as part and parcel of the European heritage this does not yet seem to apply to those elements which are perceived locally as being of a different nature or origin to the well-known heritage. The former has been studied and inventoried, but is in need of military protection in view of the current political situation. The latter are largely underrated despite their development potential.

Improved management of the reconstruction process is essential to help local authorities and the province's institutions identify development solutions respectful of Kosovo's built heritage. Generally speaking, the situation is difficult at present because of administrative, logistical and financial problems and illegal activities.

In the field of Education, the Council of Europe will continue to give its full support to the assistance programmes which the Council of Europe is operating in Kosovo. The Parliamentary Assembly’s recommendation rightly points out that the Council of Europe is in a very strong position to make a substantial contribution to the process of education reform, and the full range of work – particularly in policy development, history teaching, language and education for democratic citizenship - will be needed for years to come. Such long-term support will be essential to accompany the Kosovo in a complex process of transition.

The recommendation highlights the major problems and challenges which are being faced in the education field, and the difficulties in financial, administrative and logistical organisation. The CDCC would also like to emphasize the excellent work which has been accomplished under the leadership of Professor Michael Daxner, International Administrator of the University of Pristina and Co-Head of the Department of Education and Science, to ensure that the higher education system is now fully set on a path of major reform in extremely difficult circumstances. The unification of the University of Pristina through the abolition of faculty autonomy, the introduction of a progressive university statute, rigorous insistence upon administrative and academic competence, and the start of a process of structural reform on the basis of the principles of the Bologna Declaration and best European practice constitute some success of this work. They are remarkable in such a hostile environment, and have been accomplished with inadequate human and financial resources.

Paragraph 12 of Recommendation 1511 (2001) mentions a number of future action areas.

The medium-term solution lies in the reform of heritage, spatial development and town planning legislation. Such reforms must take into account the European and international reference texts and bring about an institutional and operational reorganisation with a view to improved heritage management.

Experience has shown that establishing a favourable political context is a prerequisite for this type of action. Through the channels open to them and with the assistance of their fellow parliamentarians in Kosovo, the members of the Parliamentary Assembly are best-placed to make central and local government authorities in Kosovo aware of the benefits of protection and enhancement of all kinds of heritage. By citing examples, they could show its cultural, social and political advantages, along with its economic interest and potential as a development asset.

In the cultural heritage field, the Council of Europe's prime responsibility is to insist on the application of its own standard-setting instruments and on the ethical values of cultural heritage conservation. The work on the principle of recognising the universal value and guaranteeing equal treatment of the heritage of the various communities co-existing within a territory or having left their mark on it have advanced. The results of this work may be put to practical use in Kosovo.

The CDCC can but endorse the action proposed by the Assembly in the outline of the "Declaration on the role of voluntary organisations in the field of cultural heritage" adopted at the European Conference of Ministers responsible for the cultural heritage of Portorož in April 2001. In this field, the possibilities for co-operation or twinning arrangements between associations, involving in particular those of the new member states are already taken into account. The extension of other heritage education activities to Kosovo, notably the pilot project "Europe: from one street to another" will also be taken into consideration.

The Council of Europe is one of the “lead” agencies in the education field, and is currently developing legislation for both higher and general education within the context of a World Bank-sponsored project. Education legislation is now regarded as a priority for UNMIK, in particular after the Kosovo-wide elections for provisional self-government in November 2001. The process of harmonisation is moving ahead quickly, and the new constitutional framework provides opportunities for a democratic education system to develop. The Committee strongly agrees that long-term support will be required if this hope of democratic development is to become a reality. In this sense, it is regrettable that the Council of Europe is only able to undertake such priority work thanks to funding from external agencies.

The CDCC fully supports the Parliamentary Assembly’s recommendations for action in the education field. In the framework of its competences and acquired experience, the Council of Europe is ready to provide assistance to teacher training projects currently being implemented in Kosovo.

Work in the subjects of history and modern languages could also be undertaken to provide assistance to overall curriculum reform, while the Committee’s academic exchange programmes have been fully opened to Kosovo participants, and should help the process of normalisation. A development of comprehensive equal opportunities policies in the education sector is taken into account in the development of the general education law too.