Memo on Decani - The rule of law, an urgent issue and Kosovo in the Council of Europe

4 March 2024
The monastery of Visoki Decani, Kosovo, March 2024
The monastery of Visoki Decani, Kosovo, March 2024

The full version of this paper is available in PDF format

Last week, an ESI team travelled to Kosovo. Our goal was to examine how the only European democracy that is not yet a member of the Council of Europe might join it this year. And how to address an urgent issue, unresolved for far too long, that has become central to the debate on Kosovo and the Council of Europe.

This issue concerns a property dispute in the municipality of Decan, the most famous Serb Orthodox monastery in the Balkans (Visoki Decani) and questions about the future of the rule of law in Kosovo. Settling it now would be:

  • a win for the rule of law and for all citizens of Kosovo, who would also benefit from the human rights protection system of the Council of Europe.
  • a win for the monastery of Visoki Decani and the Serb minority in Kosovo.
  • a win for the Council of Europe, in particular for its Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), whose rapporteurs have made this a central focus.

In order to understand what is at stake, and what progress is possible, we look at four issues:

The dispute: why this legal battle about just 24 hectares of land matters so much.

History and politics: why this has proven so hard to resolve until now.

The solution: why there is only one way to resolve this.

The lesson: how this shows the importance of Kosovo becoming a member of the Council of Europe.

Dispassionate analysis of this emotional issue shows that this is the right time for a win-win-win for Pristina, Decani and Strasbourg.