Interview: Strong legal framework, int'l collaboration key in reclaiming antiquities: Greek expert

10:14, December 18, 2010      

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A strong legal framework and international collaboration are the main keys in efforts to reclaim antiquities with success, for Greece or China, stressed Greek expert Maria Andreadaki-Vlazaki in an interview with Xinhua on Friday.

A country rich in cultural relics which due to historical and other reasons have been illegally transported abroad in many cases, Greece struggles for decades for their return back home.

Beyond the worldwide known dispute with the British Museum for the return of a part of the Parthenon Temple marbles which remains unresolved since 19th century, Greeks have been remarkably efficient in quite a few cases over the years.

Greek Ministry of Culture Acting Deputy General Director of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage, Maria Andreadaki-Vlazaki, regards as very significant all the returns of relics back to Greece. That certainly applies to the golden Macedonian wreath of the 4th century B.C. which was returned to Athens three years ago from Getty Museum after a decade-long battle to prove it was illegally sold.

But it also applies to symbolic gestures, such as the return of seashells from foreign universities or small fragments of sculptures that could be parts of the Parthenon temple. All steps are regarded as important. The "secret" to success is hard, systematic work, close cooperation on an international level and determination, she explained to Xinhua.

"The Greek legal framework is the main tool we use to request back antiquities. We take action based on the principle that antiquities belong to the state, which makes our work more efficient," said Andreadaki-Vlazaki, noting that Greece has also added to its "weaponry" the European legal framework and international treaties such as the UNESCO treaty of 1970.

These are the main tools Greece uses to claim back relics, she explained, adding that Greek authorities focus their efforts on three ways -- through diplomacy, lawyers or the judicial assistance in cases of confiscated antiquities.

"But each case is unique. So we use different paths in each case. No one can say which way is more effective, it depends on the case. I have wondered many times myself. Each case is unique," stressed Andreadaki-Vlazaki when asked to make recommendations to countries with face similar problems, such as China.

A trip to China years ago has strengthened her view that Chinese and Greek civilizations have many similarities.

Expressing hope that Greek-Chinese cultural exchanges and cooperation on many levels will be boosted in the future, she advises China to strengthen the legal frame and international cooperation to claim back successfully Chinese cultural treasures currently hosted at Western museums.

"What I could say is to focus on strengthening the legal frame and reach and ratify as many international agreements as possible. Also very significant is the collaboration of police authorities with Interpol and other countries' police authorities. Precise steps should be taken in this path, non stop with determination and I believe that China will see results, as we have seen," said Andreadaki-Vlazaki.

Delicate management can help avoid repercussions in bilateral ties, while a request on the return of relics is under examination, she said, asked to comment whether relations between countries can be affected by such an issue.

"On the contrary relations can be boosted. Because the other country realizes that what we claim is right. What is needed is delicate management, because this way we achieve better relations," noted the Greek expert, referring to a recent example, when Greece returned to Italy antiquities found on Greek soil.

"We did it with great pleasure, because we knew they belonged to Italy. It was the right thing to do. We believe in people and we believe in right," stressed a smiling Andreadaki-Vlazaki.

Source: Xinhua
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