The effort to protect and preserve cultural and historical monuments in the region is gaining momentum.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 11/02/13
St. Sofia Cathedral, in Ohrid, Macedonia, is part of the Balkan cultural heritage. [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]
On the recommendation of regional cultural preservation experts, Southeast European countries have agreed to tighten co-operation in protecting and preserving cultural heritage, regardless of political problems dividing certain countries.
Balkan cultural heritage bares the elements of a common past and history throughout the region. Southeast European cultural monuments tend to carry the marks of many historical periods and architectural styles, visible in many churches, monasteries, mosques, fortresses, and other cultural objects.
According to experts, the Balkan countries must develop a common strategy for the protection and promotion of cultural heritage, through joint archaeological projects and the study of cultural heritage in the Balkans in all countries.
"The Balkans share much common cultural heritage. Development of a common strategy will show other countries the values of archaeological and historical sites in this region," Alba Kreka, professor from Korca, Albania, told SETimes.
Goce Zura, art historian, said that though the Balkans still struggle with religious and inter-ethnic problems, cultural co-operation is a must.
"Unfortunately in the Balkans everything is politicised and involved politics, so also with culture. We need to join experts from Macedonia, Serbia, and other Balkan states to solve problems, and let the politicians deal with just politics," Zura told SETimes.
"In the past, cultural heritage objects influenced the same people, the same painters worked in them," Zura said. "For example, the old city architecture in Ohrid, is almost identical to the one in Gjiroktastro, Albania. Why not work on preservation of such cultural heritage that joins us as a region?"
Goran Patcev, architect at the Ohrid national institute and museum, told SETimes that the EU has the funds for cross-border cultural co-operation in the Balkans.
"Along with the heritage institute in Thessaloniki, we applied for funds via a common project, IPA funds for traditional building materials. St. Mary Perivlepta monastery in Ohrid had conservators and architects from Greece and Italy working on it," Patchev said.
He said that Ohrid has been a UNESCO-protected site since 1980, and city authorities are willing to share their experiences in managing cultural heritage, conservation and restoration of objects with similar cities in the region that lack the experience.
Hristоs Karajanidis, Greek expert in cultural heritage protection, also said that despite political divisions, Balkan countries should join in for cultural heritage protection.
"Cultural heritage unites us all in the Balkans … and we should care and protect cultural heritage," Karajanidis said.
A recent project on European values in cultural heritage included the participation of several historic cities in the region, similar in structure and architecture -- Ohrid in Macedonia, Prizren in Kosovo and Gjiroktastro in Albania.
"At the time of ancient civilisations modern-day borders did not exist. Common historical sites are today divided by borders, and scientifically speaking, there's a need for co-operation between neighbours," Kuzman told SETimes.