The renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding between Greece and the United States of America for the protection of Greek cultural goods with the further extension of protective terms and for categories of newer Greek cultural goods, was signed by the Minister of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni, on behalf of , and the Ambassador of the United States of America to Greece Geoffrey R. Pyatt.
The renewal of the bilateral Memorandum of Understanding, ten years after its signing in 2011, maintains the previous protective provisions and, at the same time, extends them to specific categories of ecclesiastical and ethnological objects dating back to 1830. These are high-risk categories of illegal , based on data from the period 2016-2020 that record an increase in trade in cultural goods of the post-Byzantine period.
With the signing of the renewal of the Memorandum, the two sides prove their firm commitment in the direction of combating the trafficking of Greek cultural goods.
The Ambassador of the United States of America, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, stated:
“Thank you very much Minister Mendoni for those generous and genuinely warm remarks. Distinguished guests and colleagues, I am so pleased that we have completed the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding for the protection of cultural heritage between the United States and Greece.
Minister Mendoni, I am especially happy to sign this renewal with you, as you were also our counterpart when the Greek Government and the U.S. government first entered into this agreement ten years ago, in July 2011. And I can not think of a better setting for us to meet and to sign this document today than the Byzantine Museum – truly one of the premier cultural treasures of Greece.
With the renewal of our agreement, the United States reaffirms our commitment to the protection of Greece’s fabulously rich cultural heritage. Reflecting the great value and importance of Greece’s history to all of humanity, this renewal also expands the scope of our earlier agreement, to include precious artifacts and ecclesiastical ethnological treasures up through 1830, shortly after Greece bravely won its independence.
The timing of this expansion and renewal of the agreement could not be more fitting, as Greece celebrates 200 years of independence, and our countries jointly celebrate two hundred years of friendship and alliance.
As you said Minister, our countries ’relationship today is stronger than it has ever been across all the fields of our shared endeavors. By renewing this agreement, which is an important component of the U.S.-Greece Strategic Dialogue that Foreign Minister Dendias and Secretary of State Blinken will host in October, we will continue to ensure the protection of Greece’s world-renowned cultural heritage.
The United States is firmly committed to protecting these treasures from looting and trafficking. Fostering collaboration and exchanges between our cultural institutions and professionals is the heart of the work we do – throughout the U.S. Mission to Greece and in Washington.
As we sign this renewal, we affirm our renewed commitment, and I know we have a great deal to be proud of, and very much to look forward to. So I want to thank you once gain for your personal leadership in this effort, and I want to assure you that the United States will continue proudly to stand by the side of the Hellenic Republic ”.
The Minister of Culture and Sports, Lina Mendoni, stated:
“On behalf of the Greek Government, I would really like to thank you for the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Hellenic Republic and the Government of the United States of America regarding the imposition of import restrictions on categories of archaeological and ethnological material of Greek cultural heritage. This Memorandum on the one hand renews the respective previous ones and on the other hand extends its scope to categories of archaeological, ecclesiastical and ethnological material until 1830. Greece has a long cultural heritage. From the very beginning of its existence as a State, it faces systematic looting and dispersal of its archaeological treasures. Over time, governments have acted vigorously and resolutely to eradicate the illicit trade in movable monuments. A number of measures have been taken at legislative, administrative and executive level within the country, in the multilateral framework and within the European Union, as well as in bilateral cooperation with third countries. The protection of movable cultural property, movable monuments, is achieved not only through precautionary measures and sanctions but also through awareness-raising efforts and incentives such as educational programs, rewards for declaring the discovery of new sites or the delivery of movable monuments. Nevertheless, looting mobile monuments is a reality and its prevention is difficult, especially in a country with the geomorphology of Greece. The United States of America and the cities of Western Europe have been and are important markets for the illegally traded cultural goods of Greece. This is evidenced by the large number of auctions in their territory with Greek cultural objects. For this reason, it is extremely important not only to renew the Memorandum of Understanding but also to extend its scope to include in its protective provisions specific categories of ecclesiastical and ethnological objects dating back to 1830. These are categories that are at high risk of trafficking. And what we have from statistics is that during the period 2016-2020 the trade of cultural goods of the post-Byzantine period increased, ie from 1453 to 1830. We know very well, as we see in the various auctions, that now the objects of this period is now more popular among collectors of works of art worldwide, and after that there is an increase in both their demand and their monetary value. That is why the Memorandum we just signed between Greece and the United States is very important. It is a reference point. And I would really like to personally thank you, Ambassador, because your long presence in our country, but also the fact that you traveled to Greece, met churches and monasteries, archeological sites and its people, is certain, and I absolutely believe it, that it helped catalyze the extension of time covered by the memorandum we just signed. The United States’ relations with Greece are not just historical, they are very close. I think that in the field of culture, and the proof of this memorandum, very important steps have been taken that strengthen the relations between the two countries. I want to assure you, and I say this on behalf of the Secretary General of the Ministry and the services, that the Ministry of Culture has and constantly expresses the intention, the mood and the joy to show Greek culture to the outside world, whether it is Europe or not. America or third countries. This memorandum significantly reduces illegal trafficking, prevents illegal excavations and the theft of treasures from monasteries, churches, and even museums many times. On the other hand, Greece is ready, and it has proved it, because since 2011 when the first memorandum was signed until today, many goods have been identified and repatriated, as well as many exhibitions, constantly increasing, organized by the Ministry of Culture and services. of, they come out. I assure you that this pace will accelerate and intensify. Thank you very much not only as a representative of the Greek government but personally for our extremely good cooperation “.