Newsletter 9/2011 - Our South East Europe

Task Force on Culture and Society, platform for rehabilitation of cultural heritage in South East Europe

Council of Europe defines cultural heritage as a precious resource in the integration of different dimensions of development: cultural, ecological, economic, social and political. For South East Europe (SEE), given the turbulent political and social changes it has passed through in recent decades, rehabilitation, preservation and more efficient utilization of cultural monuments and sites, has only recently gained the deserved attention.

The first step in this direction was a programme called ‘Ljubljana Process: Funding the rehabilitation of heritage in South East Europe’, jointly implemented by the Council of Europe and the European Commission in the 2003-2010 period. The aim was to implement a heritage management tool based on the identification of ‘priority interventions’ and the drawing up of ‘integrated rehabilitation projects’ targeting the social and economic potential of monuments and sites.

Among the 186 significant historical buildings and cultural heritage sites placed at the priority intervention list for conservation and restoration in South East Europe, 26 consolidated projects have been selected by national authorities, taking into consideration the quality of the rehabilitation process carried out so far, their symbolic, historical and cultural value, and the economic potential of the project.

Borislav Surdic, Council of Europe’s Regional Programme for Cultural and Natural Heritage in South East Europe (RPSEE) coordinator for Serbia highlights the rationale behind the programme.

“The joint Council of Europe and EU’s Integrated Rehabilitation Project Plan/Survey on Architectural and Archaeological Heritage unified all South East European countries in an endeavour to change the image about them by changing their approach to heritage and recognizing diversity as main richness of the European culture.”

Surdic adds that the project was successful in implementing innovative methodology by all participants.

“It helped in changing the image of the region. The shared heritage was successfully used in the fight against common prejudices.”

As the region matured in terms of gaining determination and ownership over its invaluable cultural heritage, the Ljubljana Process entered its second phase called Ljubljana Process II - Rehabilitating Our Common Heritage, implemented by Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) through the Task Force on Culture and Society, established in September 2010, with a Secretariat based in Cetinje, Montenegro.

The beneficiaries of the project are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and UNMIK/Kosovo. Practical tasks in this demanding but rewarding process were trusted to local experts and professionals with strong support of their European colleagues.  

Kristina Biceva, Advisor on International Projects and Activities for Protection of Cultural Heritage at the Ministry of Culture of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, claims that heritage rehabilitation as a concept and approach is becoming increasingly appreciated and exercised in SEE, embracing the principles of heritage protection and management towards sustainability and strengthening of its socio-economic potentials.

“The project has certainly played a significant role in placing heritage more firmly at the heart of the communities generating the first, but solid steps of cooperation with the local authorities for creation of a joint vision for protection, promotion, management and use of heritage, thus increasing and supporting the involvement of local communities in heritage-led regeneration initiatives.”

Bujar Demjaha, university professor and former project coordinator from Pristina, is of the opinion that treasure and diversity of architectural and archaeological heritage is a privilege but also responsibility for the entire society and particularly for the ministries of culture.

 “There is an added value to this project - responsibility for preserving and promoting common European cultural heritage and building new relations in reconciliation and dialogue of cultures, social inclusion, environment protection, and regional and economic development.”

Surdic adds that the RCC Task Force on Culture and Society should be the operative leader of this process, establishing a platform for permanent regional cooperation, enhancement of heritage and its wise use for the benefit of society.

“Participation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Ljubljana Process represents an extraordinary experience and multiple benefit for the country in terms of regional approach to rehabilitation of cultural and natural heritage in SEE“, says Edin Veladzic, Senior Adviser for European Integration and International Cultural Cooperation at the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina sees the continuation of Ljubljana Process as a new opportunity for better cooperation with countries from the region and a chance to jointly engage to change often negative perception of our region frequently present among European public“.

Spela Spanzel, Undersecretary of Directorate for Cultural Heritage at the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, which has continuously supported the project, highlights that the vital word in the title of the Ljubljana Process II is “common”.

“Despite its geographical core, this project is about common heritage, common sense and common future. We are convinced that the combination of the legal standards established in the internationally recognised conventions and the practical experience acquired through field action together constitute the right approach for tackling today’s issues related to cultural heritage and beyond.”

Spanzel adds that Ljubljana Process is one of the best examples where the meetings, papers and political process have ended with concrete results that have a real meaning for the real people; results they can see, touch, feel and from which they can benefit.

The newly established RCC Task Force on Culture and Society is put before the challenge to live up to these standards and continue in facilitating the region’s ambitions in rehabilitation and advanced use of its rich culture.

The opening of the Secretariat and the inaugural meeting of the Task Force is planned for spring 2011. The 28-member Board of the Regional Cooperation Council decided to establish the Task Force at its meeting in Sarajevo on 16 September 2010. A protocol on the host country arrangements for the Secretariat of the RCC Task Force was signed by Montenegrin Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Milan Rocen, and RCC Secretary General, Hido Biscevic, on 28 January 2011.


RCC Task Force on Culture and Society - regional mechanism for protection of cultural heritage in South East Europe (Photo:

RCC Task Force on Culture and Society - regional mechanism for protection of cultural heritage in South East Europe (Photo: