The US Ambassador in Pristina Philip Kosnett and EU Office Head Nataliya Apostolova sent an appeal to the Kosovo authorities to implement the 2016 decision of the Constitutional Court which confirmed ownership of Visoki Decani Monastery over 24 hectares of land, KoSSev portal reports.
Following 16 years long dispute the Constitutional Court made decision in May 2016 confirming the previous decision of the Supreme Court from 2012 on Visoki Decani monastery’s ownership rights over 24 hectares of land.
The decision caused conflicting reactions in the Kosovo society with the harshest criticism coming from Decane municipal leadership which still refuses to implement the court’s decision and register the monastery’s ownership of the land in the cadastre.
“Three years of failure by the Government to enforce Constitutional Court’s decision on the Decani land case is a blow to equal justice. Can any citizen – or any potential foreign investor – rely on the Kosovo courts when the Government can choose to ignore the courts’ authority?” Ambassador Kosnett tweeted on Friday.
The clergy of the Visoki Decani Monastery are using the land for cereal cultivation and livestock grazing. They said local authorities cannot prevent them from using the land because the area around the monastery is under KFOR protection. However, the failure to comply with the decision to enter the monastery’s ownership of the land into the cadastre “creates a feeling of insecurity and discrimination among the clergy and it shows that we are living in a situation of lawlessness and the non-functioning of institutions which are supposed to respect and protect our property rights, and not jeopardize them,“ the Decani Monastery clergy told KoSSev.
The Head of the European Union Office in Kosovo, Nataliya Apostolova reacted yesterday to the fact that the Decani municipality did not implement the decision of the Constitutional Court three years after it was reached.
“The EU expresses deep concern on the lack of implementation of the 19th May 2016 Constitutional Court ruling on the land dispute case in Decani and others affecting properties of members from non-majority communities. Decisions by Kosovo’s highest legal authority are final and must be implemented without further delay. The EU calls on authorities at all levels to strongly uphold the rule of law as a fundamental democratic principle,“ Apostolova wrote in a statement.
700 hectares of land taken from the monastery in 1946
Seven hundred hectares of land were seized from the Visoki Decani Monastery in 1946. However, the state of Serbia returned 24 hectares to the monastery in 1997. The monastery, when combined with the twenty hectares it previously owned, then owned 55 hectares of land, KoSSev portal reported.
The return of 24 hectares was regularly recorded in the cadastre, but since 1999 the local Kosovo authorities do not recognize that this land belongs to the monastery. Although the monastery continues to use the land, municipal authorities were challenging the ownership of the monastery over these 24 hectares.