In the Plenary, the draft law is introduced and voted on today with the object of ratifying the Agreement signed on July 21, 2022, with the contracting parties the Ministry of Culture and Sports of Greece, the Museum of Cycladic Art (Kycladiko Museum), the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET) and the Delaware-based Hellenic Ancient Culture Institute INC. – HACI.
The said Agreement concerns the return to Greece of a private collection consisting of a total of one hundred and sixty-one (161) antiquities of the Cycladic culture and its exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
With the first article of the bill, it is defined that the purpose is the return, from New York to Greece, of a private collection of antiquities of the Cycladic culture, the promotion of the Cycladic culture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York, through the exhibition of said collection, as well and the partnership between the Department of Culture and Sport and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
According to the Explanatory Report, “the agreement is introduced to be sanctioned by a legislative act, as its object concerns issues of return, exhibition and loan of antiquities under conditions different from the general and horizontal conditions provided for in the archaeological law”. Furthermore, regarding the objects of the collection that are to be exhibited in New York and returned, by sections and gradually, to Greece, it is stated that: “many of the objects in the collection, due to their type and dimensions, are extremely rare or even unique examples of the art and technique of the Cycladic civilization of the 3rd pre-Christian millennium, worldwide. The variety of their types and forms provides new data to our knowledge of the evolution of Proto-Cycladic art during the 3rd millennium BC.”
As stated in the first annex to the agreement under ratification, on July 21, 2022, a Contribution Agreement was drawn up in New York before a notary public, pursuant to which Leonard Stern surrendered, by way of donation, his rights and possession of a collection of one hundred and sixty-one (161) antiquities to HATE. On the other hand, on the same day, the Exhibition Agreement of the above collection at the MET was signed between HACI and MET. It is further stipulated that the Greek State is the exclusive owner and trustee of the collection and that the Ministry of Culture and Sports participates as the representative of the Greek State.
HACI is also recognized as the owner of the collection, based on the Contribution Agreement, and the exhibition of the collection at the MET is approved by the Ministry, according to more specific conditions. Among the agreed terms is the sending of specific antiquities from the collection, which are specified, to the Cycladic Museum, in order to be exhibited for a period of one year. Moreover, the collection will be exhibited at the MET for twenty-five (25) years. After fifteen (15) years of exhibition of the collection as a whole, fifteen antiquities will be returned every five years, with the aim of exhibiting them in the Cycladic Museum or in other museums in Greece. Accordingly, from January 1, 2034 until the end of the year 2048, it is agreed that antiquities of the Cycladic culture, which will be sent as a loan from the collections of the Cycladic Museum or other museums, will be exhibited at the MET in the same exhibition hall of the above collection. After the end of the twenty-five-year exhibition of the collection at the MET, a loan of the collection for a period not exceeding twenty-five (25) years may be concluded between the Greek State and the MET, otherwise, the exhibition of the Collection, based on the Exhibition Agreement, expires .
Also, between the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Cycladic Museum and the MET, cooperation is agreed on in particular actions, which are specified. At the same time, it is stipulated that the contracts provided for by the sanctioned Agreement, as well as any ancillary act, are exempt from direct or indirect taxes and any charge in favor of the State, that the competent courts for resolving disputes that may arise from the Agreement are of Athens, as well as that the Agreement in question must be submitted to the Parliament for approval by September 10, 2022. The entry into force of the law is set from July 21, 2022, the date of signing of the Agreement under ratification.
The scientific council
As the Scientific Council of the Parliament observes, in its report, “the sanctioning of the contract by law is a common practice and is considered necessary when the contract was either drawn up by a procedure different from that provided for by the general or special provisions, or contains terms that bind third parties ( non-parties), or contains terms contrary to applicable law or arrangements for the resolution of disputes arising from the performance of the contract by arbitration, such as, for example, the paragraphs of the Agreement, which regulate differently the question of possession and loan of movable monuments in relation to the current legislative framework.
It also reminds that the scientific service has also pointed out in its previous reports that “when a contract is concluded with a legislative act, the conditions related to the rights and obligations of the contracting parties still have a contractual nature. On the contrary, its terms that deviate from the provisions in force or set impersonal rules that bind third parties, have the force of a formal law and, therefore, the administrative acts issued based on them can be challenged before the Council of State”.
“The largest, in terms of number of antiquities, collection that has ever returned to Greece is returning”, said the Minister of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni, in the Education Affairs Committee of the Parliament, where the draft law was discussed, last Monday. He will return, he noted, without litigation, which in many cases has substantial difficulties and an uncertain outcome. However, the most important dimension of the agreement, as Ms. Mendoni said, is the proposal made by Greece regarding the return of cultural goods, without changing anything in the archaeological legislation: “It is a proposal that ensures the fundamental project of the cultural policy of the Ministry of Culture, which is the recovery of the goods of Greece, and in fact ensures it sovereignly and outside the judicial framework”.
An enormously important, valuable collection is returning to Greece, said ND rapporteur Fotini Pipili, who also referred to the secrecy that was maintained before the conclusion of this particular agreement. “Absolute confidentiality and strict adherence to its rules, when it comes to manipulations concerning an important matter of national interest, a subject of global radiation, especially in our country, is something that is rare. I have to express my admiration for the achievement of this secrecy, for a long time in fact, which was kept de facto, by many specialized people, both in Greece and abroad. Two years of preparation, with strict adherence to archaeological legislation,” said Fotini Pipili, who emphasized that the procedure decided to be followed by the Ministry of Culture is the most suitable solution for the return of the antiquities, which until a few days ago were a hidden collection.
The government is ceding sovereign rights to the Greek people, it is ceding possession of antiquities, complained Sia Anagnostopoulos, Head of Culture of SYRIZA, who requested the withdrawal of the draft law. The SYRIZA MP complained that the Ministry of Culture brought to the Parliament an “illegal agreement, an agreement in crypt without any legislative authorization from any law of the country, in order to launder illegal transactions”. The minister is obliged to submit all the documents until Thursday when the case will reach the Plenary, said the Head of Culture of SYRIZA to emphasize that “here we are dealing with excess of duty and abuse of power”. SYRIZA, in a letter to the Speaker of the Parliament, has requested that the bill be withdrawn because it “obviously contradicts and circumvents the archaeological legislation”. He has also requested the deposition of all documents related to the establishment, constitution and operation of the Institute of Ancient Greek Culture of Delaware, which “jointly with a foreign ‘collector’ is blackmailing the Greek state”.
“Today, we see that the Ministry of Culture proceeded to enter into this agreement, in order to fulfill the conditions and requirements of a private individual”, said the special buyer of PASOK-KINALL Dimitris Konstantopoulos who added that in the contract for the contribution of the 161 antiquities, between the collector and .Stern with the Institute of Ancient Greek Heritage in Delaware, Greek law did not apply, but New York state law. “Essentially Mr. Stern is choosing how to manage our cultural heritage for the next 50 years and while we know nothing about how these antiquities came into Mr. Stern’s possession,” said the specialist buyer of PASOK.
“The questions to the Government are relentless and demand answers. Is this a collection of important finds, products of illegal excavations from important sites of the Cycladic civilization, which have obviously been illegally exported from Greece?” said KKE special buyer Ioannis Delis. “Did or not our country have every legal and every moral reason to claim their direct ownership and possession? Is it a fact or not that the Greek Government and the Greek Parliament are mediating, in order to exhibit antiquities, illegally exported, in a private museum in New York, such as the MET, but also in Greece, such as the Museum of Cycladic Art, instead of really should these be repatriated in the true sense of the term?”, said the KKE MP who called on the Minister of Culture to answer why, apart from ownership, the Agreement does not include the possession of antiquities by the Greek State, which “is the essence of ownership ».
The government must answer whether it has investigated the legality of the titles of acquisition and collection, said the special buyer of the Hellenic Solution Sofia Asimakopoulou. “What we see is that you agreed to make a ball of the antiquities which will come and go every now and then. So, in short, you bind and oblige in an unacceptable way the Greek governments until 2074 to send antiquities of the Cycladic civilization to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This is the Agreement you are proud of,” said the Hellenic Solution MP.
“The Greek Parliament is invited to ratify an agreement on antiquities that we do not know if they are fake. But if they are not fakes, which we hope they are not, then they are definitely the product of poaching and Mr. Stern is definitely an antiquarian. In other words, he is a recipient of antiquities products”, said MeRA25 expert buyer Cleon Grigoriadis and underlined: “the government “should have immediately filed a lawsuit, immediately requested the extradition of Mr. Stern to Greece to be tried and convicted and imprisoned Mr. Stern, who has unbelievably valuable antiquities that don’t belong to him to put in his living room. They belong to the Greek people.”
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