Press conference following the 11th session
Ljiljana Ševo, chair of the Commission, notified journalists of the resolutions passed by the Commission.
Twelve decisions were adopted to designate the following properties as national monuments:
· The historic site of the Old Town of Blagaj in Blagaj on the Buna, municipality Mostar – Jugoistok, FBiH
· The historic building of the Karađoz-beg hamam in Blagaj on the Buna, Mostar – Jugoistok municipality, FBiH
· The historic building of the Karađoz-beg bridge in Blagaj on the Buna, Mostar – Jugoistok municipality, FBiH
· The historic building of the Medresa (Derviš Hanume medresa) in (Bosanska) Gradiška, RS
· The natural and architectural ensemble of the Tekke in Blagaj on the Buna, Mostar – Jugoistok municipality, FBiH
· The historic site of the harem of the Potočka (Hajji Perviz) mosque in Banja Luka, RS
· The historic site of the harem of the Stupnička (Hajji Salihija) mosque in Banja Luka with nišan tombstones, RS
· The historic site of the harem of the Hajji Kurd mosque in Lijeva Novoselija in Banja Luka, RS
· The historic site of the harem of the Grabska (Hajji Begzada) mosque with nišan tombstones and česma fountain in Grab in Gornji Šeher in Banja Luka, RS
· The historic site of the harem of the Jama (Sofi Mehmed-paša) mosque in Gornji Šeher in Banja Luka, RS
· The historic site of the harem of the Hiseta (Mehdibeg) mosque in Banja Luka, RS
· The historic site of the harem of the Pećinska (Seferbeg) mosque in Banja Luka, RS
She noted that the Commission had been exceptionally active in the field of international cooperation in the past two months, since the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina had adopted a decision delegating its authority in this field to the Commission. Attendance by representatives of the Commission had contributed to a broad awareness among the international public, both in UNESCO and the Council of Europe and in other specialist international institutions dealing with cultural heritage protection, of the new organizational approach and methodology in the domain of cultural heritage protection in BiH.
Pursuant to the provisions of Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Commission is required to respond within a year to every petition for the designation of a certain movable or real property as a national monument. Since the Commission has received over 900 petitions, many of which do not include the information required for the designation procedure, and given that the Commission also needs far greater institutional support, it has been compelled to extend the protection regime applicable until a final decision to designate a property as a national monument has been adopted for a maximum of a further year from the expiry of the first year following receipt of the petition.
The Commission is in regular touch with the owners of properties on the list of endangered monuments of BiH and with the relevant local and entity authorities in the attempt to find a way to protect the monuments most at risk and raise funds for these and others on which interventions are essential.
At its 11th session the Commission considered the proposal to designate the historic urban areas of Mostar Old Town and Jajce as national monuments. These are highly complex and voluminous studies, and the Commission is of the view that they should be worked on further and their structure should be improved, so that the debate on designating these properties as national monuments will continue at further sessions of the Commission.
During its 11th session the Commission held a meeting with representatives of the religious communities, attended by senior representatives of the Islamic Community, the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the Jewish Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Attempts were made to find a better way to ensure that the basic needs of the religious communities are not hindered, while fully honouring the protection measures prescribed by the decisions to designate these properties as national monuments. The representatives of the religious communities even notified the Commission of certain irregularities in the implementation of certain donations by the Government of FBiH. It was agreed that the Commission and the religious communities should continue to work closely together in future at the bilateral level.
Vareš municipality has established a Commission for the preservation of the cultural heritage at the municipal level and the formation of a larger heritage protection committee is under way. This municipality has a very rich and largely well preserved stock of monuments. The Commission visited several sites in Visoko municipality (the coronation site of the Bosnian kings of Mile in Arnautovići, the Tabačka mosque, the mediaeval fort of Visoki, a 19th century urban complex, and mosques in the town itself that have undergone alterations not appropriate to their status as cultural heritage, the Orthodox church of St Procopius which is in very poor condition and the fate of its outstandingly valuable movable items is uncertain, particularly the collection of icons, and the Franciscan monastery in Visoko, which has an exceptionally valuable collection of books, modern art and and ethnological collection, but there is a problem with the building that formerly belonged to the monastery with the process of restitution of the property under way).
Dubravko Lovrenović noted that the process of founding a Society for the preservation of the cultural heritage is under way in Vareš as was done in Jajce a few years ago. This society will be helpful not only at the local level but also to the Commission. There are proposals to found a network of such societies in several municipalities, such as Vareš, Zenica, Visoko and Kakanj, which will help to raise public awareness at the local level. In Zenica there is a Committee for the celebrations of Kulin Ban's anniversary which might evolve into such a society, and similar moves could be made in other municipalities.
Zeynep Ahunbay said that the visit to Vareš had enabled the Commission to see for itself that there was good cooperation and coordination between the local inhabitants, non-governmental organizations and the Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historic and Natural Heritage. The local inhabitants had expressed their willingness to contribute to the preservation of the cultural heritage, which is a very important step.
During the visit to the Tabačka mosque in Visoko, the Commission had ascertained that the local inhabitants had carried out some works on the mosque (the mahfil and mimber) without documentation and without the approval of the Federal Ministry of Regional Planning and the Environment. This is a very important monument, and no interventions of any kind should have been carried out without first completing valid project documentation and without the supervision of the Institute for the Protection of Monuments of the Federal Ministry of Culture and Sport. Another problem identified by the Commission was new graves in the burial ground beside the old monument. The harem of the mosque is an open-air museum, and these new graves are detrimental to the historical value of the old tombstones.
During the meeting with leaders of the religious communities the Commission was told that the restoration of buildings is three times more expensive than building a modern building. Funding is a significant factor, but there must be a way of securing funds for the preservation of the historic landscape and townscape and the historic identity of a national monument, given their value.
Amra Hadžimuhamedović noted that the two years since the Commission was appointed and eighteen months during which it has been hard at work, progress in implementing Annex 8 is plain to see. The entire framework of heritage protection has been established at the state level, and heritage has been identified as an issue that is important for BiH, internationla cooperation and European integration. In this regard, collaboration with the Council of Europe, with whose help the Regional Cultural and Natural Heritage programme for South East Europe is currently under way, has been of particular importance. The programme should result in a list of priorities for intervention in the domain of the heritage, which would then be the basis for the European Commission to act within the programme to integrate countries that are not members of the European Union.
In addition, the Commission has held talks with the relevant ministers in Republika Srpska, the Federation of BiH and Brčko District, and received firm assurances that the budgets of the Governments of FBiH and Brčko District will include major funding for the implementation of Annex 8. It has been agreed with the Minister of Regional Planning and the Minister of Education and Culture in Republika Srpska to launch an initiative requesting that the Republika Srpska budget include budget items for their ministries for the implementation of Annex 8, which is the responsibility of the Government of Republika Srpska.
She told journalists of the case of the Fethija mosque in Bihać which dates from the mediaeval period. The users of the building have set up concrete pillars, destroyed the flooring and completely altered the interior of the building. The Commission has set in motion all legal mechanisms to restore the building to its condition prior to the damage caused by these interventions and was notified prior to the 11th session that the concrete pillars had been removed. The site has been damaged by these interventions and the Commission expects the Government of BiH to place the Fethija mosque on the list of priorities for funding and restoration.
She told journalists that the Swedish organization Cultural Heritage without Borders had begun work on protecting one of the endangered monuments, the Handanija mosque in Prusac, which was badly damaged during the war. The Swedish government has made funds available, which this organization will implement in such a way that the restoration of the building will also be used to provide training for young restorers and architects currently engaged with the Commission, and for post-graduate students of the Faculty of Architecture in Sarajevo. The restoration began following completion of works on the Church in Zavala, where thanks to them the rich wall paintings have been saved. The Commission's campaign to protect the endangered heritage has succeeded in encouraging foreign donors to begin works on the renovation of these monuments.
Representatives of the Commission responded to journalists' questions on the protection of the Mehmed-pasha Sokolović bridge in Višegrad (at a meeting between members of the Commission and the Minister of Regional Planning, Civil Engineering and the Environment of RS and a representative of the Ministry of Education and Culture of RS in Banja Luka it was agreed that a meeting be held between these ministries and the RS Government in regard to providing funds for the protection of the bridge. In addition the Government of FBiH has expressed its intention to earmark funds to save this structure. The Commission has decided to propose the Mehmed-pasha Sokolović bridge in Višegrad for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which will raise awareness in the international community and the public at large of the importance and role of this bridge. Višegrad municipality has banned motor vehicle traffic over the bridge. Unfortunately, during the summer the metal shields were removed from the bridge piers); on drawing up projects to make good endangered monuments (pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Law on the Implementation of Decisions of the Commission, the Commission requires the relevant Entity government to provide all the legal, technical, scientific and financial measures needed to implement the protection measures set out in the Decision. The approval of project documentation is within the jurisdiction of the Entity ministries of regional planning, and the works and supervision are carried out by professional institutions); works carried out on the Lav cemetery in Sarajevo (the works were carried out by a team of experts from BiH together with specialists from Slovenia. The property is not protected as a national monument, but the exchange of information between exsperts and specialists in certain areas is standard procedure world-wide. There are few experts in BiH, and their working conditions are made more difficult by the shortage of technical resources, so cooperation with international experts is particularly iportant. In addition, local experts are mainly getting on in years, and young professionals must be trained as soon as possible); returning Kulin Ban's charter to BiH (this is a good idea, and a small experts' team should be set up to make contact with the other party to shed light on the case and make it possible to return the document to BiH. It is much the same with the paintings from the Kraljeva Sutjeska monastery, which were removed to Zagreb in the late 19th century, but there is full documentation and a record of the transfer, and the state institutions should be involved in this case. At this session the Commission discussed the way to protect heritage properties relating to BiH or owned by BiH but located outside BiH. In the case of the tomb of Queen Katarina, which is in the Church of St Maria in Aracoeli in Rome, where there is no way of recognizing it when one enters the church or even of knowing that it is there, it was agreed that the Commission would write to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Italian Ambassador notifying them of the fact that Bosnia's Queen Katarina is buried in the church, with a proposal that a notice be set up at the entrance to church stating that Queen Katarina is buried there, with details of when she lived and when she left BiH.)