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European Heritage Award 2010 Celebrating Excellence awarded to The Commission to Preserve National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Regional Cultural and Natural Heritage Programme for South Eastern Europe

Integrated Rehabilitation Project Plan/Assessment of Architectural and Archaeological Heritage (IRPP/SAAH)


Round Table:” Cultural Memory – A Vanishing Treasure”

“Dom policije”, Sarajevo; March 3, 2004


The Round table was held on 04.03.2004 at 14:00 at the lobby of the “Dom policije” in Sarajevo, where the Commission’s exhibition was displayed. In addition to members of the Commission and the Secretariat, participation at the round table also included: Safet Halilović, Minister of Civil Affairs; Ibrahim Spahić, director of the International Festival “Sarajevo-Sarajevo Winter”; Koča Govedarica, advisor in the Department on International Scientific, Technical, Cultural, Educational and Sports Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jela Božić, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture – Civil Engineering in Banja Luka; Metka Kraigher-Hozo, Dean of the Academy of Arts in Sarajevo; Senad Hodović, director of the Visoko Regional Museum, Mevlida Serdarević, director of the Museum of Sarajevo, Azra Hadžić, architect-conserver at the Institute for the Protection of National Monuments of the Federal Ministry of Culture and Sport, Pavle Mašić, architect-conserver at the Cantonal Institute to Preserve Cultural-Historical and Natural Heritage Sarajevo and Živka Životić, researcher and Head of programme in “Energoinvest” – Centre on Technology Development.


The Chair Ljiljana Ševo explained that Bosnia and Herzegovina is affluent in cultural-historical heritage and that this exhibition represented that part of heritage that had been designated as national monuments by the Commission’s Decisions in the last two years. Those present only one, considerably smaller part of all values in Bosnia and Herzegovina in respect of heritage. In addition to that, on the grounds of defined criteria, the Commission composed a list of endangered national monuments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which includes around 30 monuments at greatest risk. These are monuments that are not destroyed and possible to restore. They also posses extraordinary historical, aesthetic and cultural values and are very important in terms of building civil confidence and peace implementation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Commission launched an international campaign to raise funds to protect three monuments (Mehmed-paša Sokolović Bridge in Višegrad, Stolac Old Fort and Jajce Old Fort).


In addition to existing legislation, a component pertinent to institutional strengthening is included in the scope of a larger regional project under which a draft Law on the Protection of Heritage at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina is initiated. Modalities will be discussed of how to ensure that the new law provides for a more direct and more efficient communication and more efficient protection of heritage.


Ibrahim Spahić provided more details on participation of the international festival “Sarajevo – Sarajevo Winter” to the project on the protection of cultural-historic heritage. He emphasised the importance of today’s meeting, in view of drafting the Law on the Protection of Heritage at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina till the end of this year, with no intervention by the High Representative, on the basis of proposals made by experts and Commission members. It is important that two principles of the Commission’s work be honoured – avoid political connotations in regard to cultural heritage and ensure serious approach at protecting cultural heritage by the state itself, with no interference in the field of ownership issues. He proposed the Law to be passed on 19.12.2004, at the common session of both Parliaments, the House of Peoples and the House of Representatives of the Republic of Srpska. That occasion would be used to mark the 50th anniversary since the European Convention on Culture was adopted and the Commission can again display the exhibition “Cultural Memory – Disappearing Property”. He gave credit to the Commission for its two-year work that resulted in establishing a stable framework and network to protect cultural heritage, ranging from local to state level. He believes that it will be needed to raise an issue of structuring at the University of Sarajevo and other Universities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and give full support to Departments of Restoration and most prominent experts in all fields should be engaged in drafting the Law. A complete change of policy in the area of protection of monuments is required, so is drawing up a programme to protect cultural heritage by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, members of the Commission, representatives of Universities and international community. He stressed the role of NGOs in charge of the protection of heritage at local level, because they could do most in identification of sites, conservation and protection, linkage with tourism and utilisation for cultural purposes. Very important is a media campaign and special programmes, documentaries and serials on electronic media, aimed at informing the public about the Commission’s decisions to designate properties as national monuments, and educating about cultural heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He thinks that education is of vital importance and that the Commission’s Catalogue should be recommended as an asset in view of rebuilding trust in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He emphasised that the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina need to support the requests of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, Council of Ministers and citizens, so that the Law on the Protection of Heritage at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina would ensure full support by key state institutions and engagement  of experts in drafting the Law.


Safet Halilović said he was pleased to participate to the Round Table and to be able to support activities aimed at the protection of cultural heritage in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In his opinion, the Commission’s exhibition is very important, since in addition to Sarajevo, it will be displayed in Banja Luka, Mostar, Tuzla and Jajce and most important European political and cultural centres.

He pointed out that cultural-historical heritage was a very valuable segment of life in general in a human community. It is a testimony, not only of a continuity of human presence from prehistorical period to our time, but also of successive different cultural strata and creative uniqueness of populations that succeeded each other.

Heritage represents an important factor in the identification of population with particular territory. Therefore, due to harsh, disastrous experience of the past, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, rehabilitation of cultural heritage of major symbolic significance, constitutes one of key steps in the process of return of expelled people and ensuring respect of fundamental human rights.

Protection of cultural property is integral part of a Constitutional category of the protection of public properties. Protectiion of cultural-historical heritage has a long lasting history in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Earliest legal documents that define relation of state institutions to cultural heritage date from 1874.

Today, one hundred and thirty years afterwards, the protection of cultural heritage at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina is defined under Annex 8 of the General Peace Framework for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Commission to Preserve National Monuments is responsible for implementing the provisions stipulated in Annex 8.

The Commission carries out its key activity – adopting decisions to designate identified movable and real estate properties as national monuments in compliance with single, agreed criteria, in an efficient manner and strongly manifested professionalism.

Awareness about systematic destruction of cultural heritage in the previous period, as well as in the wars that marked the 20th century, particularly in this region, asks for strong action in the area of protection, aimed primarily at alleviating consequences of destruction to the extent highest possible and at protecting monuments from further devastation, regardless of its cause. 

The Commission’s activities are seen as a direct implementation of the civil part of the peace agreement, they contribute to preserve the identity of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to the process of return of displaced persons and refugees and are essential for resolving those issues that may become a threat to the political and security stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

By adopting 147 decisions to designate movable and real estate properties as national monuments, the Commission showed seriousness, dedication and impartiality in its work, since the decisions were accompanied by a detailed historical and technical documentation and expert valorisation, preceded by field research and collection of information very often difficult to obtain.

In order to inform the public as widely as possible and to provide education that is a basis for creating a proper conduct of heritage, the Commission to Preserve National Monuments made its work entirely transparent. The Commission strives to draw attention to the protection of national monuments and to employ all available tools that may contribute to implementation of this process: through direct contacts with owners of properties that enjoy a status of national properties and their users, with representatives of all levels of authority in Bosnia and Herzegovina and international community; through press conferences and cooperation with the media and through presentation on the Commission’s web site. 

Enormous part of cultural-historical heritage in Bosnia and Herzegovina is endangered one way or another. The Commission monitors the condition of national monuments and agrees upon a list of those that require urgent and indispensable attention. Consequently, a List of Endangered National Monuments has been set up, for which the Commission launches a campaign for urgent protection.

By rescuing evidence of our existence, we rescue consciousness of ourselves and invest in the future. Arranging an exhibition of disappearing heritage is one of ways to get closer to meeting the final goal.  



Zeynep Ahunbay explained that one of most important problems the Commission faces is the fact that some monuments need urgent attention, but the Commission’s jurisdiction is only to designate a property as a national monument. Monuments in need of urgent protection are: Ćejvan Ćehaja Hamam in Mostar, Mehmed-paša Sokolović Bridge in Višegrad, Mehmed-paša Kukavica mosque in Srbinje (Foča), Šeranić’s House in Banja Luka, Town Hall in Novi Grad (Bosanski Novi), Historic centre of Blagaj and Eminagić Konak in Tešanj. Funds for urgent protection of these monuments should be secured. Another problem are monuments for which funds have been provided by the international community, but restoration was poorly conducted. Education is very important and experts in relevant fields should be engaged in the process of restoration to ensure that the restoration would be carried out properly. The Commission’s decisions to designate properties as national monuments prescribe the measures of protection, which is one way to ensure quality of restoration work.


Mevlida Serdarević raised the issue of municipalities that, in her opinion, do not have appropriate experts. Complete financial and tax system is not designed to provide funds for the protection of heritage. There is no liaison between cantons and entities in respect of protection. She gave an example of the Museum of Sarajevo, that will set up an exhibition in Trebinje on 07.03.2004., but there is no responsibility in terms of cooperation at the level of authorities, which makes impossible cooperation of security services. It is of vital importance to open universities for new fields of education, not only in terms of conservation, which is considered as primary, but in terms of establishing a new Department of Ethnology. Ljiljana Ševo said that, at passing a new law, the Commission hopes to get assistance from Mevlida Serdarević in the area of taxation. She stressed that the institutional framework was disrupted to some extent, but that the cooperation among relevant institutions and universities was in place. The Institute for the Protection of Monuments of the Federal Ministry of Culture and Sport and the Republic Institute for the Protection of Cultural-Historical Heritage of Republika Srpska, together with a Swedish organisation Cultural Heritage without Borders, have achieved a very good cooperation in the course of implementation of Project on the Rehabilitation of Structure of the Monastery in Zavala, and that there is a strong cooperation among universities.


Metka Kraigher-Hozo pointed out that Minister Halilović, at the time when he was a cantonal minister, supported a project to initiate delivering lectures on restoration and conservation, as an optional subject, at the Academy of Arts in Sarajevo. Unfortunately, the University of Sarajevo does not have available either funds or professors to establish an independent department to deal with this issue. It is very important that the Department of Art History at the Faculty of Philosophy in Sarajevo was established two years ago. A team of professors and students conservers from Avignon visited Zavala and were impressed by the results achieved, manner of restoration and reconstruction of the building. In addition to the cooperation between the Universities of Avignon and Sarajevo, and within that scope between the Academies of Fine Arts, a cooperation was established with the Academies of Ljubljana and Bremmen. “European Bridge for Sarajevo”, a project expected to be international and years-long, aims at connecting entire region, contribute to exchange of experience and assist in preserving world heritage.


Jela Božić said that there were two entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, each having its own Institute staffed with skilled professionals who should be engaged in a long-term institution. The former Yugoslavia had a Federal Institute for the Protection of Cultural-Historical Heritage and the Protection of National Monuments, following the same principle of analogy, an institute may be created in Bosnia in Herzegovina to bring together most educated professionals who would have two targets: (1) urgently get engaged in drafting a new Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina, since that project requires active, meaningful and high-quality participation of experts experienced in the field of protection of architectural heritage, who are familiar with the history of protection and relevant international documents included in legislation of countries that ratified those documents. In that respect, it would be very useful to include universities, faculties and academies that have departments or individuals dealing with scientific-research work; (2) A more concrete contribution of the Institute would be permanent monitoring of the condition of architectural heritage and upgrading of methodology. The Commission applies a bit specific methodology, that is a consequence of all circumstances and best approach at given situation, but impossible to last for a longer period of time. Having looked at the Provisional List and List of Monuments Designated as National, a clear distinction is obvious in the category of historical valuation of those monuments, so that the key issue is an issue of a real, methodological, modern approach in the valuation of these monuments. A joint effort would be needed to establish scientific and professional basis for appropriate valuation of architectural heritage, which gives an opportunity to create an Institute or establish a strong professional synergy of individuals from both entities who deal with the protection of architectural heritage. That would help to overcome problems when reviewing reconstruction of architectural heritage at the Faculty of Architecture-Civil Engineering in Banja Luka, since basic professional principles are often challenged, in other words, rehabilitation is carried out on the basis of insufficiently accurate principles, with a high degree of improvisation and, consequently, properties reconstructed in such a manner cannot stay on the Provisional List of National Monuments. It is therefore necessary to engage all thinking people and people of culture in the protection of cultural heritage, particularly those who are specialised in that field.


Senad Hodović believes that the Commission should be supported through government institutions. Cultural heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina was extensively destroyed during the war, an its major part is still being destroyed. In his personal opinion, weakest spots in the preservation of cultural and natural heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina are the Institutes, followed by municipalities that adopt urbanistic plans with no previous valuation of cultural-historical properties, so that new facilities are often constructed in the immediate vicinity of sites that are one hundred years old, or even older, which puts them at a direct risk. If this approach is pursued, valuable properties of architectural heritage that have been preserved up to now, in 10 to 15 years will have to be closed, isolated and it would be impossible to rescue them. He believes that the Commission may set priorities, as in recording and designating individual movable and real estate properties as national monuments, so in permanent raising public awareness about the extent of risk. The Commission needs to have a permanent access to the media to be able to continuously caution the public about the vulnerability of heritage in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Pavle Mašić said that the Institutes were in a difficult position since municipalities, being an initial authority, did not take care of new construction projects, although an adopted regulation plan was in place. He mentioned the example of erecting jumbo notice boards – when the Institute intervened and sent a letter to the Stari Grad Municipality, they replied that that was not under their competence. The Institute has no legal authority to stop works and no say in the matter. He thinks that municipal authorities are to be held primarily responsible. There is also a problem of poor technical quality of project documents and same is applicable to quality of executed work due to lack of skilled craftsmen. The Law prescribes minimum three bids be collected for the execution of works, which causes a lot of problems when some specific works are concerned, like restoration of painted ornaments.


Koča Govedarica said that the Department on International Scientific, Technical, Cultural, Educational and Sports Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, succeeded the former Institute on International Technical-Technical and Cultural-Educational Cooperation. This Department is in charge of international cultural cooperation, which partially overlaps with the competencies of the Ministry of Civil Affairs. He believes that the Department achieved a good cooperation with the Commission that contributed to drawing up international programmes and agreements. He stressed the possibility of consulting international Conventions in the field of protection of cultural heritage and archives at drafting the Law on the Protection of Heritage at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted the following international conventions in the area of the protection of cultural heritage: the Convention on the Protection of World Cultural Heritage; the Convention on The Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property; the European Convention on the Protection of Archaeological Property; the Convention on the Protection of Architectural Property; the European Convention on Culture. The Department prepares international contracts and agreements in the field of culture, that significantly encompass the protection of cultural property and heritage, and 20 such agreements have been concluded up to now. The future cooperation gives a possibility to adopt concrete programmes of cultural cooperation on the grounds of ratified international agreements. Agreements in the area of culture have already been concluded with Italy, Iran and Turkey, that have an implemental character and needn’t be ratified, but are operational. The programmes need to be outlined in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Culture and Sport and the Ministry of Education and Culture of Republika Srpska and with other relevant institutions of culture. It is very important to designate representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the area of culture in the Commissions and Committees of the Council of Europe. Criteria have been defined, coordinators proposed and the procedure is ongoing.


Dubravko Lovrenović identified two most important issues: the Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its enforcement and financial resources. The  new Law needs to define relations among five levels of authority in Bosnia and Herzegovina (municipalities, cantons, Brčko District, entities and state) and stipulate compulsory allocation of funds at the level of municipalities and other levels of authority for the protection of cultural heritage. The Ministry of Civil Affairs should have a key role in the adoption of the Law.

Tina Wik mentioned that the organisation Cultural Heritage without Borders, funded by a Swedish organisation SIDA, executed all works in Bosnia and Herzegovina in cooperation with local experts, the Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Mostar, the Institute for the Protection of Monuments of the Federal Ministry of Culture and Sport and the Republic Institute for the Protection of Cultural-Historical and Natural Heritage of Republika Srpska. All works were executed predominantly by local companies that were very interested in rehabilitation, which resulted in a very good cooperation with contractors. Architects engaged in projects also did their best, and difficulties that occurred were due to insufficient financial resources of the Institutes and some organisational weaknesses, as well as with archives in respect of lack of documentation. A good cooperation was achieved with the Institute of Banja Luka, although only one architect was engaged, which proved to be insufficient. The Institute of Sarajevo encountered problems with the replacement of director and some internal conflicts, that affected the work. There were difficulties in providing quality project documentation. The Institute of Mostar also faces a problem of lack of architects-conservers, but fortunately they were supported by the Aga Khan Trust Fund in the implementation of numerous restoration projects. She emphasised the need to upgrade the institutional framework and proficiency of architects-conservers. A better cooperation needs to be established with all available experts in a much better ambience.  


Metka Kraigher-Hozo added that no education, at the Faculty of Architecture or Philosophy, in the area of art history or cultural heritage, or at the Academy of Arts, in the field of reconstruction, restoration, rehabilitation of visual arts property, would be possible without access to projects and practices applied in the implementation of specific projects. It is therefore necessary to ensure coordination, permanent cooperation and joint efforts to secure funds, identify and submit applications for projects. It is impossible to educate new staff if there is no concrete work. The “Lav” (Lion) monument in Sarajevo gives a good example of successful reconstruction, restoration and rehabilitation, thanks to the engagement of a team of international experts and application of experience gained in the world in respect of selection of best quality materials and technologies, and a very good cooperation with the Cantonal Institute for the Protection of Cultural-Historical and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo. This project gave an opportunity to students to learn more and facilitated drawing up a textbook on restoration and conservation to be used for future projects.


Ljiljana Ševo concluded that a partnership and transparent interconnection of all functions is needed, ranging from legislation, through authorities in charge of supervision and enforcement of relevant legal provisions, to field work – in such a situation, financial problems would be diminished to a certain extent. The Commission, therefore, expects to get support from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other levels of authority.


BiH jezici 
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