Memorandum submitted by Mr Thales Vassilikiotis
As I promised on the Acropolis two days ago,
I am writing to inform your Committee on the very unfair, indeed
anti-constitutional legislation concerning cultural property passed
by the previous Minister of Culture of Greece Venizelos two years
The aforesaid legal abortion gives the Greek
Ministry of Culture the right to confiscate, in order to "protect"
it as they claim almost any work of art, modern art of today,
yesterday, 50 years ago, 60, a 100 or 1,000 years old.
Before this abortion there existed four contradictory
laws concerning state "protection" of works of art,
that they grossly categorised as of "archaeological value."
The confusion was indeed great and eventually the plenum of the
Supreme Court in this country decided that only an object dated
before 1453 could be categorised as of archaeological value and
consequently "protected" by the state, which, of course,
could well mean confiscated. It was indeed illegal all along for
citizens to possess antiquities, and only the state could grant
permission to an individual to possess an antiquities collection
or any object.
The aforesaid decisions of Areios Pagos are:
A271/72, 01V, XPOV KB 513, 600 A673/73, 01V, XPOV KG 724 NSK 535/81.
Since the days of Melina Mercouri as a Minister
of Culture the bureaucrats of the Greek Ministry came up with
crazy ideas about extending the notion of "object of archaeological
value" to include all modern art, any object of archaeological,
artistic, historic or folklore value, as clearly stated in the
projected law by Melina Mercouri, which was never passed by the
Greek Parliament. According to this ridiculous idea he who knowingly
possessed a distinguished work of art independently of its origin
and date would go to jail for life, if the state asked him to
give this work of art and he refused. At the same time Melina
was in England claiming the return of the Elgin Marbles, looted
by the well known Lord.
Why was Melina any better than Lord Elgin, that
I never understood!
Similar laws were suggested and endorsed by
another Minister of Culture Tzannis Tzanetakis, but as there was
public reaction he never managed to get them through Parliament.
It was indeed the one before last Minister Venizelos who managed
to pass through Greek Parliament this ridiculous and barbarous
law that makes it practically impossible in Greece to possess
a work of art. What a shame for a country with such ancient traditions
in the arts.
As an artist, a painter, member of the Greek
artists' union I wish to express to your Committee our indignation
and to beg you to caution the Greek Culture Ministry that you
will not even consider the return of the Elgin Marbles if they
continue with extreme stubbornness and barbarism, comparable to
that of most totalitarian regimes, to blatantly consider that
they have the right to confiscate any work of art they can lay
their hands on.
I include a photostat of an article of mine
in a major economic magazine on this subject back in 1988.
This article, as well as others I wrote in the liberal newspaper
Eleft Erotypia have remained unanswered. A typical attitude
of the Greek Government of the last 15 years, and an insult to
the democratic citizen's protest about this flagrant trespassing
of our democratic, constitutional and legal right to cultural
I am at your Committee's disposal to fully explain
and prove the illegality and barbarism of these Government proceedings.
Parliamentary representatives of a friendly democratic nation
as the English nation should concern themselves with this attitude
and not condone the abolition of cultural property in Greece.
Certainly when the same Ministers claim the return of the Elgin
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