The Committee of Ministers calls on the international community to mobilise with a view to protecting and rebuilding places of worship in Kosovo and the wider Balkans
Twelve years ago, the trial of strength which began in Kosovo led to a conflagration throughout Yugoslavia. Six years ago, its horrific culmination was reached in the Srebrenica massacre. Today, the Committee of Ministers reaffirms its determination to do everything possible to continue the efforts made in the last two years to achieve peace and reconciliation, after the parallel adoption of Resolution 1244 by the United Nations Security Council and introduction of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, and in the spirit of the cultural Convention of the Council of Europe.
In this context, 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. It emphasises that if these buildings are to serve their intended purpose, the necessary conditions must be created for the return of refugees and displaced persons.
The Committee of Ministers urges all citizens of Kosovo and elsewhere in the Balkans to refrain from any act of destruction, which can but jeopardise progress towards reconciliation, and to condemn past and present attacks on places of worship of any religion whatsoever. It calls on political and religious leaders to work together in the service of peace and reconciliation, inter alia with the support of the younger generations - in Kosovo and elsewhere - which wish to build a better future.
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.
The Council of Europe is ready to contribute to such an action within the limits of its resources and expertise. The Committee of Ministers emphasises that the promotion of tolerance and reconciliation is an absolute priority for democratic stability in the Balkans, a major objective of the international community to which the Council of Europe intends to make its own specific contribution, based on common values such as cultural diversity, respect for human rights – including those of persons belonging to national minorities – and the equal dignity of all human beings.