Parliamentary question - E-2359/2003(ASW)Parliamentary question

    Answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission

    The protection of Serb Orthodox religious sites in Kosovo is a matter of considerable concern to the international community. The Commission strongly condemns the attacks that have taken place against such sites and welcomes the fact that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR) devotes considerable troop resources to the protection of patrimonial sites in Kosovo.

    The Commission supports the efforts of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo to establish democratic institutions which should pave the way for reconciliation of all communities. This is the key to decreasing levels of violence and to building a multi-ethnic and tolerant Kosovo.

    More specifically, the Commission has encouraged the international civil administration in Kosovo (the UN Mission in Kosovo - UNMiK) and the Provisional Institutions for Self-government (PISG) to include, as part of their priorities for public reconstruction and investment, the funding for the repair of the damaged sites under the Kosovo Consolidated Budget to which the Community contributes. This measure would underline the importance of this issue and would foster more ownership of the political leadership and the Kosovo society to address this problem.

    The Commission does not therefore itself intend separately to undertake the reconstruction, with EC funding, of any religious buildings in Kosovo. However, it is worth mentioning that, under the initiative of President Prodi and the support of the Member of the Commission responsible for Education and Culture, the Commission is co-financing an " Integrated Rehabilitation Project Plan (IRPP)/Joint action for a survey of the architectural and archaeological heritage (including religious heritage of all denominations)” and the establishment of a priority list of monuments and sites in need of urgent conservation/restoration in the Balkans. This Joint Action is being developed within the Regional Programme for Cultural and Natural Heritage in South East Europe, implemented by the Council of Europe between 2003 and 2005 and will be a very useful source of information to promote the involvement of authorities and donors and international agencies in this field.