Kosovo was part of the former Yugoslavia. The majority of its population are Albanians, but there is a Serb minority mainly living in the North East of the territory. In addition, there are several historic Serbian orthodox monasteries, dating from the Middle Ages.
At least two of them are UNESCO listed sites and they also have resident communities of monks and nuns. For almost ten years they have been surrounded by barbed wire and protected by NATO troops, because of difficult relations with the Albanian neighbours. The Soul of Europe, a British charity which has previously worked in Bosnia, has been invited by the monasteries and their neighbors to help them to work out sensible solutions to these problems.
On Monday 21st June I asked the following Question in Parliament:
“Are the Government aware of the very delicate situation now existing in Kosovo? This is already sub judice at the European Court of Justice. In addition, it so happens that the new Patriarch of all the Orthodox Serbs will be enthroned in the historic monastery of Pecs in October. This event could be seen by the Albanian majority as provocation or an act of cultural assertion. Do the Government agree that this makes it urgent to normalise relations between all the Serb monasteries and their Albanian neighbours? These have been tense since 2000 – ten years ago. Will the Government ask the European Union to commission and pay for an independent third-party attempt at conciliation, which has already, I am glad to say, been invited by both parties in the conflict? I conclude by declaring a non-financial interest in the NGO in question.”
Lord Strathclyde answered for the govenrment: “My Lords, I cannot confirm that there was a discussion at the European Council but clearly the situation in Kosovo is immensely tense and the Noble Lord has great expertise on it. The words that he has spoken today will of course be taken fully into account by my colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office”.