Balkan States Work Together on UNESCO Bid

Four countries that emerged from the violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s pledged to work together on preparing a nomination that will give their medieval tombstones known as ‘stecci’ a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. 

Government representatives from Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia agreed in Sarajevo on a plan for preparing a joint bid, including specific timelines and funding needs.

“People in our four countries share part of their culture and inter-cultural dialogue can ease relationships between them…and lay down a path for a brighter future,” Bosnia’s civilian affairs minister Sredoje Novic told journalists.

Novic said this was the largest regional cooperation project in the field of culture, voicing hope that it will be supported and endorsed by UNESCO.

Over 70,000 stecci dating back to the period between 12th and 16th centuries are scattered around the region with majority or over 60,000 of them in Bosnia.

The monumental tombstones, sometimes as heavy as 30 tonnes, are known for their decorative carvings ranging from simple geometrical motives to elaborate scenes from human and animal life.

“The regional concept promoted by this project can bring our countries closer together on other similar future initiatives,” Serbian Culture Minister Nebojsa Bradic said.

Croatian Culture Minister Bozo Biskupic said the four countries had an obligation to protect their shared cultural heritage, because it is something they “just borrow from their children”.

His Montenegrin counterpart Branislav Micunovic stressed that the project could promote a “cultural market” for nearly 18 million people who do not need interpreters to understand each other.

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