Greek Culture Ministry Initiates First Meeting against Antiquities Looting, Illegal Trade


Greek Culture Ministry. (Photo by Eurokinissi

ATHENS -- An interministerial committee to coordinate efforts against antiquities looting and illegal trade met to discuss collaboration among culture, judicial and police officials and the codification of dispersed laws, among other issues, a Culture Ministry announcement said on Monday.

The committee, established by a 2008 law, was chaired at this session by Culture Minister Lina Mendoni, and included representatives of the Ministries of Culture, Civil Protection and Justice. Also included were legal consultants, Athens court representatives, and security police representatives.

The issues discussed include the following:

- The members discussed the current role of a special prosecutor, picked from the Athens Misdemeanors Court, who is also responsible for the natural environment. The Culture Ministry has requested that the prosecutor's role and term of service be set out by the Justice Ministry and that the official has jurisdiction in the entire country. Justice Minister Kostas Tsiaras requested details on the number of cases, especially of illegal trade, adding that legislative changes would be necessary for an expanded jurisdiction. The ministry said it could contribute to codifying related laws.

- Mendoni requested, the statement said, that a police officer be posted as liaison at the ministry to facilitate coordination between the ministry's Directorate of Identification and Protection of Cultural Artifacts and the Hellenic Police. She envisioned, she said, a system like the Italian carabinieri division dealing exclusively with antiquities looting and illegal trade.

- The third issue on the agenda related to the outstanding issue of a ministerial decree that sets out the terms and conditions under which the Culture Ministry will work with judges and police. Such a decree should take into account the police's operational needs to be of benefit to both sides and bring the best results, she said, proposing a small subcommittee of all parties involved to produce a draft. Public Order Secretary General Constantine Tsouvalas said he would look into the transfer of a police officer to the ministry on a permanent basis.

All members of the committee agreed to regular meetings, exchange of opinions and closer cooperation.