UNMIK press conference (Pristina July 16, 2008)
Some highlights related to the Djakovica church land usurpation
UNMIK Spokesperson RussellGeekie
Thank you Edita. Are there any questions?
Kim Radio: Mr. Geekie, what will UNMIK undertake to preventconstruction of City Parkin Gjakova on the foundations of the templeof Holy Trinity which was mined anddemolished three times from 1999 onwards? Municipal Government has beenconstructing the city park without the approval of the Serbian Orthodox Church,although this land is owned by the Orthodox Church. What is your jurisdiction?What can you do to stop annihilation of the Orthodox temple in Gjakova?
Russell: At this time, I would be uncertain of our jurisdiction, asyou put it. What I can tell you is that the SRSG is very much aware of thisissue, and he does - as part of his visits throughout Kosovo, he does plan tovisit Gjakova Municipalitynext week.
Kim Radio: Mr. Geekie, Bishop Teodosije has submitted a request tothe head of UNMIK a week ago. He still has not received a response. That landis owned by the Serbian Orthodox Church. This is the protected zone proposedfor reconstruction of the temple. I am asking what is the jurisdiction ofUNMIK? Will you prevent the construction of the city park on the foundations ofthe Orthodox temple? What is your jurisdiction and what are your further steps?I know that Mr. Zannier is visiting throughout Kosovo, but I am asking, what isyour jurisdiction, will you stop that illegal construction?
Russell: I have already answered your questions and your statement.The only thing that I could add about the letter is that I did read about it inthe media. I will check that it has been received. I am sure if it hasn't beenresponded to it, it will be and I will give you details on that when we havethem.
Kim Radio: Mr. Geekie, you are the spokesperson of UNMIK and youshould know all the regulations which UNMIK uses in Kosovo. Is there aregulation which regulates protection of cultural and historic monuments inKosovo and whether, based on that regulation, you have the authority to conductexecutive decision or you have to transfer all jurisdiction to municipal ruleeven before you should have?
Russell: As far as I know, there is such regulation, although ifyou want to quiz me on regulations, I am sure you would beat me quite often. Idon't know them all by heart. In terms of executive authority, as far as Iknow, in theory at least, not in practice at this time, the executive authoritydoes rest with the SRSG. As we move forward on these kinds of issues, we willgive you more information about it, when we have it.
Pink: Mr. Geekie, you said that you are aware of the problem ofillegal construction in Gjakova. Do you have any precise information who hasordered to, on the foundation of the temple, construct a playground? Is it theAssembly or a rich entrepreneur for example? And a question for Veton: in thissituation, how can Police react? Do you have automatic regulation whichdirectly resolves this problem when someone starts illegal construction and saystop you cannot do that? Or do you have to get an order from someone in orderto react? Thank you.
Russell: I don't have that information at this time, withcertainty, to give you. But again, what I can tell you is that this is an issuethat the SRSG is aware of, that he will examine and again he is traveling tomeet with the municipality in Gjakova early next week. So we might have more onit then.
Veton Elshani (Kosovo Police Spokesman): Yes, always when we havesuch cases police reacts together with municipal inspectors. Whenever we have adocumentation that is presented to us, because we are an executive institution,therefore we expect from the court and the municipality to provide assistancein these cases.
RTK: As far as Iknow, that is a decision made by Gjakova municipality. How illegal can you calla decision made by a legal municipality in Gjakova to build a park in a placewhere an Orthodox Church was there before? And you said that you are fullyaware of the situation. Are you aware also about the history and the time thechurch was built in the first place?
Russell: What I said was that the SRSG, who matters a lot more thanI do, is very aware of these issues and is being briefed on them. I am aware ofthe history, but I don't think this is the forum to discuss the history, nor isit the forum to discuss the legality. What is important and what the SRSG wantsto do is, as he has said before and as I said before, is to create aproblem-solving environment. We can get together, talk about these issues andreally move forward on them and get away from this confrontational way ofdealing with these kinds of issues.
Beta: Mr. Russell, I am trying to understand you but I am not ableto, regarding this problem with construction of the city park. Does that meanthat UNMIK has no authority whatsoever and that everything was given toexecutive municipal power, or this is only lack of interference? [Wordsindistinct] Do you have a way to temporarily or in any other way stop it?Because obviously the church was there. Who was building churches and when is adifferent issue. Or have you left everything to executive rule in Gjakova whichimplies that what was started to be constructed in March 2004, will continue?
Russell: Again, what is important on this issue is that the SRSG isaware and will move forward. This is not the forum right now to talk about whatUNMIK should or should not do, can or cannot do. You are all aware of the SRSG'srole now, it is really to create a problem-solving environment. Again, when hehas visited, maybe this is an issue that we will take up again. But I am nothere to tell you now what we can or cannot do or what we will or will not do.What we will be clear about is to the extent, if we react on this issue, wewill be very transparent about it.
Source: Visoki Decani Monastery