“Greece wishes to express its support for UNESCO, its humanistic values and its universality”, declared Mr Panos Panagiotopoulos, Minister of Culture, on the occasion of his visit to UNESCO on 23 July 2013.
The Minister informed the Director-General that Greece would hold the presidency of the European Union in 2014 and hoped that it would provide an opportunity for the Director-General to pay an official visit to Greece.
Recalling Greece’s interest in UNESCO’s standard-setting action in the area of culture, the Minister emphasized in particular the importance of the 1970 Convention concerning the trafficking of cultural property, the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
Mr Panagiotopoulos hoped that UNESCO could use its good offices with the authorities of the United Kingdom as a facilitator in the matter of the Parthenon sculptures. In that regard, he referred to the mediation and conciliation roles played in 2010 in the context of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation.
Mr Panagiotopoulos highlighted in particular the importance of cultural heritage to the identity of peoples, not in terms of nationalistic sentiments, but as the cement of society, a vector of dialogue and the humanistic values that form the basis of all civilization. “We are citizens of the world,” he declared, recalling that each population contributes to the forging of a universal culture, “this is the philosophy on which UNESCO was established.”
Referring to the withholding of the United States of America’s funding to the Organization, the Minister added, “we must protect the Organization and its universality; the humanistic values of a highly respected institution.”
Irina Bokova thanked Mr Panagiotopoulos for his country’s support and assured him that the Organization would continue to fulfill its role in assisting its Member States within the responsibilities of its mandate in order to maintain its credibility despite the financial difficulties that are significantly affecting its ambitions and its impact.
The meeting took place in the presence of H.E Ms Katherina Daskalaki, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Greece to UNESCO, Mr Karagiannis, Director of the Diplomatic Office of the Minister of Culture, and Ms Mirogianni, adviser to the Minister of Culture.