Press conference following the 14th session was held on 10th May 2004.
Dubravko Lovrenović, chairman of the Commission, informed the journalists about the conclusions of the Commission.
Seventeen Decisions were issued on proclamation of the following properties National Monuments:
The historic site of the remains of the church and necropolis with stećak tombstones of Grčka glavica in the village of Biskup, Konjic municipality, FBiH
The archaeological site of the remains of the Roma settlement and medieval necropolis with stećak tombstones in Vranjevo selo near Neum , Neum municipality, FBiH
The historic site of the Hutovo's town (Hajjibeg town), Neum municipality, FBiH
The historic site of the Old town of Koštun (Koštur) in Dabrica, Berkovići municipality, RS
The historic site of the Old town of Vinac, Jajce municipality, FBiH
The historic monument of the Abbot church of Cistercit of stricter rite – «Marija Zvijezda» (Uznesenje Blažene Djevice Marije) in Banja Luka together with movable properties in Banja Luka, RS
The burial ground of the cemetery on Presjeka near Ustikolina, Foča municipality
The architectural ensemble of the Metropolitan's residence (Bishop palace) in Mostar, FBiH
The historic building of the Clock tower in Mostar, FBiH
The architectural ensemble of the Karađoz-beg mosque in Mostar, FBiH
The architectural ensemble of the Roznamedži Ibrahim-efendija mosque in Mostar , FBiH
The architectural ensemble of the Nezir-aga mosque in Mostar, FBiH
The architectural ensemble of the Nesuh-aga Vučijaković mosque in Mostar, FBiH
The architectural ensemble of the Sevre hajji Hasan mosque in Mostar, FBiH
The site and remains of the historic building – Selimija (Sultan Selim II) mosque in Knežina near Sokolac, RS
The historic monument of the church of St Anne in Neumski Gradac, Neum municipality, FBiH
The architectural ensemble of the Residential complex of Biščević-Lakšić in Mostar , FBiH
The cemetery on Presjeka near Ustikolina and the Old Town Koštur were added on the List of the endangered monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
He said that the exhibition "Cultural memory -- a vanishing treasure" would be presented in Jajce in the beginning of June, during the theater games, and in July in Mostar, within the opening ceremony of the Old Bridge.
He told the journalists that after the visit of Robert Pickard, a Council of Europe expert, a working group was established with the task of drafting the contents of the Law on Protection of Cultural Heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina by this session. The group was composed of representatives of the Ministries of Physical Planning of the Republic of Srpska, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Brčko District, Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Commission to Preserve National Monuments. Two meetings were held and a proposal of the contents was defined, which would be used as a basis to draft the first draft of the law by the following session, to be held from July 6, 2004. He pointed out two important issues in the law; expansion of the Commission's mandate and the establishment of a budget for the implementation of the Commission's decisions.
The Commission initiated opening of the account for the protection of endangered heritage in the region after the incident with the ancient monastery Hilandar on the Holy Mountain on March 4, 2004. After that, there was a systematic destruction of monuments in Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro. Federal Ministry of Culture and Sports accepted the initiative of the Commission, and an account was opened to which funds may be paid for restoring the monuments.
Amra Hadžimuhamedović said that Ćejvan-ćehajin hamam in Mostar was a 16th century monument, of unique spatial arrangement. It is one of the rare monuments of that type and purpose in Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose remains presented a good basis for presentation of that type of monument in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Considering that the monument is placed in the core of the Mostar old town, she pointed out the importance of a good quality adaptation and restoration of that monument, particularly because Mostar is considered for the World Heritage List. There are two positions within the World Heritage Committee regarding the candidacy of Mostar. One is that only the bridge with towers may be included on the List, and the other is that the historic core of old town should be included on the List. Proponents of the first position, which is not well liked among the social actors in Bosnia and Herzegovina, say that the historic core underwent changes that are not suitable for the protection of the cultural heritage. The position of the Commission is that the restoration project of Ćejvan-ćehajin hamam is one of those where standards mandatory for historic cores - candidates for the World Heritage List-- were not observed. She said that the funds for the restoration were provided by the French Government, for which the Commission was grateful. Considering that the project has reached international proportions, that it is backed by UNESCO, the responsibility of Bosnia and Herzegovina based on the position of the Commission is even greater to ensure that the project is conducted in accordance with the highest standards. Unfortunately, those responsible for that project did not show adequate knowledge and they did not apply international standards, and the implementation of the project exposed the monument to destruction. In the Decision concerning the hamam, the members of the Commission tried to ensure that the wrong approach would be corrected. At the last session, all stakeholders were invited to a meeting in order to discuss all facts and improve all that can be improved. Unfortunately, only the following individuals came to the meeting: Prof. Dr. Muhamed Hamidović, dean of the School of Architecture and the signatory of the report on the review of the project; Dr. Sabira Husedžinović, docent at the School of Architecture and the signatory of the report on the review of the project; representative of the Federal Ministry of Physical Planning and Environment; Prof. Dr. Sead Avdić, chairman of the State Commission for Cooperation with UNESCO. Architects, contractors and the supervising body did not attend. Everyone at the meeting agreed that the inadequate project was leading to destruction of the monument. Reviewers said that they felt uncomfortable about their inclusion in such a project and fully supported the position of the Commission. Everyone agreed it was necessary to cease further restoration works that lead to the destruction of the monument. She expressed regret that this might hurt the relationship of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the French Government, whose friendly intention was to help the restoration of heritage in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Commission concluded in that respect that it was in the interest of those who wished to help the restoration of heritage in Bosnia and Herzegovina that their projects are in accordance with standards applied in their countries. The Commission expects that the French Government and the experts of UNESCO would understand that. She pointed out that the responsible body, architects and contractors showed a complete lack of understanding of the Commission's powers, their obligations toward the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and primarily their obligations toward a monument of high value to produce a decision to cease works on the monument. Apart from that, she said, these actors were trying to put pressure on the Commission to Preserve National Monuments by using all means at disposal that are not appropriate for this type of communication with the highest authorities, such as the Commission, and by denying expertise of the Commission members. As in all prior cases, the Commission would not succumb to any pressures. The Commission was trying to do its job professionally, in line with the knowledge and expertise of its members, and it would persist in its professionalism and the responsibility for the protection of heritage. She stressed that the criteria of the Commission were not political criteria, and the Commission would like to leave political decision making to the political authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The goal and the task of the Commission was to preserve the monument from destruction.
Within the regional program for the protection of cultural and natural heritage, the Commission showed a strong interest for the project of the Council of Europe and the EU. Technical assessment of the needs for 20 assets that the Commission proposed for the priority list of this project is in its end stage. After that, it is expected that these projects would be presented to the development bank of the Council of Europe and the EU, and that funds for their salvation would be secured in that way.
Round table "Culture" at the Adriatic-ionian initiative was held in Portorož, Slovenia. The Commission was represented by Lidija Fekeža, M.A., and Mirela Mulalić Handan, executive officer. The heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina received a due attention within this initiative, and the Commission representatives particularly contributed to assessing the influences on heritage.
Tina Wik informed the journalists about the Old Town Koštur that was added on the List of the endangered monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Remains of the fortresses from the Middle Ages are part of the rich Bosnian landscape that reminds of the past, which is not fully appreciated in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and which deserves a better treatment. These remains stress the beautiful dramatic aspect of the Bosnian history in the Middle Ages. All remains are at risk, mostly because of the lack of maintenance and funds. The Commission would like to raise public awareness regarding the importance of fortresses from the Middle Ages. Maintenance is expensive, but at least sites could be cleared of waste and weed, which is why it is important to raise awareness. Fortresses dating back from the Middle Ages are of different size and condition, but they all require continuous attention and maintenance. The Papaz tower in Jajce is falling apart, as well as parts of the Travnik fortress, and there are other fortresses for which there are no available data.
Zeynep Ahunbay informed the journalists about the visits to the municipalities of Kupres, Tomislavgrad and Livno. The restoration of Džudža Džafer's mosque in Tomislavgrad was recently completed, and unfortunately, the mosque was damaged by inappropriate restoration. The sofa was changed and a new room was added above the entrance. The Livno Municipality has rich and well-preserved cultural heritage, but it is important to ensure better professional help to improve the condition of suburban houses, the bridge, the mill, and the houses in the Old Town. The inclusion of the public and of experts would certainly improve the condition of these interesting monuments. The Commission visited the monastery in Gorica with a rich collection of archeological findings and paintings. It is important to publish information about this rich heritage in order for the public to have a better understanding and to preserve the heritage.
Dubravko Lovrenović added that there was an NGO in Kupres engaged in the protection of heritage, called «Kupreška visoravan», headed by Blanka Magaš. The Livno Municipality earmarked KM 150,000 in the budget for the protection of monuments, and the construction of the county museum was in its final stages. The museum building was mostly financed by contributions by the inhabitants of Livnom, and the investment amounted to more than KM 1,000,000. Society for the protection of cultural, historic and natural assets of Jajce informed the Commission about construction that is conducted with heavy machinery, in the close proximity of the Papaz tower in Jajce. This causes stress to the walls and particularly the Papaz tower, which is at risk, pieces are falling, and human casualties are not to be excluded considering that housing and business premises are situated under the tower.
Representatives of the Commission answered questions of journalists regarding the expansion of the Commission's mandate in the new Law on Protection of Cultural Heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the current mandate of the Commission is to pass decisions designating assets as national monuments and to define the necessary measures for protection). Considering that the establishment of a state-level Ministry of Culture cannot be expected in the near future, the Commission concluded that its mandate needed to be expanded in terms of establishing a registry of cultural assets in Bosnia and Herzegovina and ensuring funds for the implementation of Commission's decisions. There are funds used for the protection, restoration and reconstruction of the monuments, but the procedure for activating those funds is very slow. The Commission is often forced to address different institutions, from municipal to the state level, requesting urgent funds for certain monuments, but so far without success. Provision of funds for the implementation of Commission's decisions would mean a more efficient protection of the monuments, by using the funds for the protection of heritage. The budget still did not exist and should be dealt with in the new Law. There is a possibility to ensure the budgetary funds via taxation, via municipal, cantonal, Entity and state budgets, via concessions, etc.