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A. CULTURAL DIPLOMACY
Greece attaches particular importance to Cultural Diplomacy as a quintessential tool for approaching peoples and exercising foreign policy. The universality of Hellenic Culture is connective tissue in the quest for common origins and historical ties with other countries, while the dialogue of cultures contributes to international peace and diplomacy. Agreements and bilateral Educational and Cultural Programmes with third countries are a fundamental institutional tool. The various cultural events organized by our Embassies and Consulates in the countries to which they are accredited contribute in the best possible manner to cultural exchange and the promotion of all of our country’s forms of classical and modern culture. On a multilateral level, and particularly in the context of international organizations, Greek Cultural Diplomacy is aimed at pointing up, promoting and utilizing a universal value system for interstate relations.
I. UNESCO framework: The preservation, promotion and utilization of our rich tangible and intangible cultural heritage, in the context of the UNESCO Conventions, is a basic tool for exercising Cultural Diplomacy. Greece is a leader in the fight against trafficking in cultural property and is in favour of the return of illegally exported cultural property to countries of origin. Greece was elected to the UNESCO Executive Board for the period 2015-2019. The choice of our country to serve on the UNESCO Executive Board reflects Greece’s special weight in the sector of culture and the standing it has gained through its active participation and the initiatives it has undertaken in the context of the Organization. More specifically:
a) UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP): The Foreign Ministry, through the Special Legal Service, participates in the ongoing negotiations with the British side on the issue of the return of the Parthenon Marbles, which UNESCO has been addressing since 1984, when then Culture Minister Melina Mercouri submitted the Greek demand to the aforementioned Intergovernmental Committee. Following a relevant initiative, in 2013, from the Greek Culture Minister, and the adoption, with strong support from the member states and a relevant Recommendation from the ICPRCP (October 2014), the British side was called upon to consider the Greek proposal for the opening of an official Mediation process. Despite the British side’s negative reaction, Greece has not ceased pursuing the reuniting of the Parthenon Marbles by all possible means, calling on the British side to reconsider its position.
b) Participation in the Subsidiary Committee of the 1970 UN Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, with the Greek representative holding the position of Rapporteur on the Bureau of the Committee (2013).
During the third meeting of the state parties to the 1970 Convention (Paris, 18-20 May 2015), the ‘STOP ILLICIT TRAFFICKING’ Declaration, a Greek initiative, was adopted unanimously by the 112 state parties to the Convention present (of a total of 128 state parties to the Convention). The Declaration underscores the political will of the state parties to intensify their efforts to effectively protect the cultural heritage of humanity, with emphasis on coordinated international actions against trafficking in cultural property and treasures and monitoring of the art market and related sales via the Internet (The text of the Declaration is available at http://www.unesco.org/new/en/culture/themes/illicit-trafficking-of-cultural-property.). The Greek initiative was taken the day after the adoption of the Operational Guidelines for the functioning of the Subsidiary Committee for the implementation of the Convention, which remained, as is well known, inactive for over 40 years. In September 2015, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Culture and Sports, Mrs. Maria Andreadaki-Blazaki, was chosen unanimously to chair the Subsidiary Committee in question, with the primary mission of promoting international coordination against the illegal trafficking of cultural property, including cultural treasures from war zones in the Middle East.
c) In December 2013, our country was elected, with the highest number of votes, to the Intergovernmental Committee that is the organ of the 2nd Protocol (1999) to the Hague Convention (1954) on the protection of cultural property in case of an armed conflict. In December 2014, Greece was elected chair of the Intergovernmental Committee in question.
II. UN Framework: On Greece’s initiative, in 2010 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the matter of combatting illegal trafficking and on the return of illegally exported cultural property to its country of origin. The Greek initiative is now being co-sponsored by more and more states.
III. Greece’s global heritage is also highlighted via international events with Ancient Greek origins, such as the Olympic Games and Marathons, or institutions that have been internationalized, such as the Greek-inspired “Cultural Capital of Europe”.
IV. Also to be underscored is the important role played by civil society, the organizations of which are in a position to contribute catalytically to the achievement of the aforementioned goals of Cultural Diplomacy. This is what is known as “Public Diplomacy”, in which we might include, more specifically, Educational Diplomacy, an excellent Greek example of which is described below.
B. EDUCATIONAL DIPLOMACY
The aim of Educational Diplomacy is to create synergies between culture, education and economy, attracting a interested members of the public from abroad, utilizing either educational institutions or the existing facilities of select Greek agencies located in areas of particular natural, historical and cultural value (e.g., the European Cultural Centre of Delphi, the International Olympic Academy, the Athens School of Fine Arts, the Anargyrios & Korgialenios School of Spetses, the European Public Law Organization). In this context, the educational/scientific attendees are hosted for specialized programmes in a variety of fields (architecture, classical studies, Olympism, medicine, and so on).
This endeavour, in addition to pointing up the infrastructure of the agencies with facilities in unique locales of particular interest and natural beauty, utilizes local civil society agencies, such as Regions and Chambers of Commerce, promoting sightseeing and archaeological spaces through corresponding cultural and development tours.
More information is available at www.grect.com.