Greek Municipalities Sue Over Privatization of Archaeological Sites



Five Greek municipalities and the Hellenic Archaeologists Association have appealed to the Greek Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, calling for the abolition of the ministerial decisions that will allow ownership of national historical monuments to be transferred to the new privatization fund.

In the brief filed by the municipalities of Alimos, Ellinikon-Argyroupolis, Keratsini-Drapetsona, Sparta, and Patras, and by the Hellenic Archaeologists Association, the ministerial decisions will give the green light for the transfer of national and cultural treasures, such as archaeological sites and museums, to the Public Properties Company (ETAD), a privately-held organization.

The aforementioned entities have appealed to the Council of State to abolish the ministerial decisions as unlawful and unconstitutional, in violation of Article 24 of the Constitution, which refers to the protection of Greece’s cultural heritage. The organizations argue that these decisions also violate the terms of the Granada Convention for the Protection of Europe’s Architectural Heritage.

According to the appellants, the ministerial decisions involve the passing of the following monuments and sites to the Public Properties Company, which belongs to the Hellenic Corporation of Assets and Participations (HCAP):

  • The White Tower in Thessaloniki;
  • The archaeological site of Knossos;
  • The site of the Royal Tombs of Vergina;
  • Part of the archaeological site of the tombs of Philippi, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List;
  • The island of Spinalonga;
  • The Tomb of Leonidas in Laconia; and
  • The Byzantine castle of Eptapyrgio and other monuments.

The Ministry of Culture and Sports, however, issued a statement saying that no cultural monument will pass into the hands of the ETAD.

“On the occasion of the issues concerning the alleged granting of monuments and property of the Ministry of Culture and Sport to the Public Properties Company, the Ministry of Economy and Finance states that the relevant Ministerial Decision of the Minister of Finance (MINISTRY 0004586 EX 2018-FEK Β2320 / 2018) paragraph 4 of article 196 of Law 4389/2016 ensures that the properties of archaeological interest are not granted to ETAD,” the ministry said.

“In addition, it is specified that for properties of archaeological interest, paragraph 5 of article 196 of Law 4389/2016 does not apply to the maintenance of management status by ETAD because it concerns only real estate which was already managed by the ETAD before the law passed.

Monuments, museums, archaeological sites, historical sites, and cultural heritage in general are not granted and are not subject to transaction status. In this context, the management of cultural heritage is the exclusive and non-negotiable power of the Ministry of Culture and Sport,” the ministry added.