Tuesday 19 July 2011

Memorandum against Illegal Commerce of Antiquities

Memorandum against Illegal Commerce of Antiquities

Foteine Mparka, Eleutherotypia, 18.07.2011

Finally a memorandum that protects us (t.n.: the reference is to the economic memorandum). Since yesterday afternoon Greece has a strong ally in the battle against illegal exportation of its antiquities.

The American Foreign Minister and her Greek counterpart Stavros Lambinides, sign the memorandum in the Parthenon room.

For almost 10 years high ranking officials from the Greek ministry of Culture tried insistently to convince the United States to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for the limiting of importation of cultural goods of greek origin.

Yesterday afternoon , in the Parthenon room of the new Museum of Acropolis, the foreign affairs minister, Hillary Clinton, signed the text with her Greek counterpart, Stavros Lambrinides; they even went a step further. It is the most extensive text of collaboration that the USA has signed with another country and includes works of art dated from the Upper Palaiolothic (c. 20000 B.C.) to the end of the Byzantine period (15th c. A.D.).

Legal documentation

But what does this collaboration between the two countries mean? No object unearthed in Greece will be imported to the US unless accompanied by relevant legal documentation of origin. This makes illegal commerce of greek antiquities more difficult, but also makes the procedure of return of antiquities to the country. Will the interstate agreement have retroactive character? What shall be the fate of antiquities that have already been illegally exported to the US? Before examining the actual text, no conclusions can be drawn.

Whatever the case it will by activated immediately. The next move of the ministry of Culture will be to send the catalogue of categories of antiquities (analytically described) that has already been compiled, so that it be published in the Federal Protocol of the US, so as to block their importation to the country.

Satisfaction was apparent yesterday on the faces of the officials of the Ministry of Culture. The effort had started during the term of Evangellos Venizelos as Minister in 2002. It was then that a special scientific committee to prepare the dossier. The procedure entered its final phase during this last year, when a group of Greek specialists was invited by the special committee of the US State Department in Washington to support the Greek request. Before sending its official request, the Ministry of Culture compiled a dossier that showed how the cultural heritage of the country was in danger from illegal digs and commerce. The General Secretary of the Ministry, then as today, was Lina Mendoni, who was present at the signing ceremony, as was the current Minister of Culture, Pavlos Geroulanos.

"This agreement that we are signing today will protect Greece’s culturally significant objects even further from looting and sale on the international market... We know from experience that measures like this work. This will be our 15th cultural property agreement. And in countries from Cambodia to Cyprus, we have seen real results.", underlined Hillary Clinton during her short speech.

Profitable Business

The commerce of Greek antiquities in the US continues to be an especially lucrative business, with a turnover of millions of dollars. For example, in only the six months of 2010 Sotheby's and Christies of New York, auctioned more vases that the total of the years 2005, 2006 and 2009. What is more, Internet's ebay has helped create a rapidly developing uncontrolled commerce.

The Memorandum of Understanding, know by its initials MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), was instituted in 1983 by the American Congress. The central part of each memorandum is the interdiction of importation of antiquities without proper documentation. In order to sign and apply the Memorandum, a Committee was formed
, called the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC).

See also:

State Department Page on Agreements
US-Cyprus Memorandum
US-Italy Memorandum

No comments:

Post a Comment