Monday, February 16, 2015
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends,
To start with I would like to thank the Maniatakeion Foundation, Dimitris and Eleni Maniataki for inviting me to be with you today and to deliver this speech on the occasion of the New Year's "pitta" cutting.
There is no doubt that culture is primarily and foremost a social good as well as a social right. At the same time, and without creating contradictions and dilemmas, it is taken for granted that Culture implies both Economy and Development. This expression reflects the approach of major international organizations such as UNESCO, the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), according to which culture is the fourth pillar of sustainable development and contributes catalytically in consolidating a wider developing climate by improving quality of life.
EU policies are in the same line of thought, particularly in view of the specificity of the Strategy for Europe 2020 for a "smart, sustainable and inclusive growth". Based on statistical data and more than any other sector of economy, Culture is significantly increasing year by year. Employment in the field of Cultural and Creative Industry, compared with the rest of the EU economy as a whole, resisted better the downward trends during crisis period. Cultural and Creative Industry is not restricted to contemporary creation but includes cultural heritage and museums, visual and performing arts, publishing and music industry as well as cultural tourism on a larger scale, supported and fed by the above.
Cultural and Creative sectors are directly linked to the formation of conditions for the development of cultural tourism, as an "economy of experience” offers "experiences" that enrich and diversify tourism product. In this context, the European Commission pays particular attention so as to fully exploit the so-called "cultural capital" for Member States in order to achieve higher added value and multiplier effects as related to culture externalities. I would like to recall that to date funding from European Structural Funds were constructed based on this very concept.
In this sense the Greek State initiated the total number of measures implemented in the previous years through the Ministry of Culture. During the years 1999-2014 the Structural Funds allocated, through the Second and Third CSF today NSRF, approximately € 2.5 billion for 1319 projects and Culture actions. In the field of protection and promotion of cultural heritage, we planned and developed at the Ministry of Culture a large program of interventions, structured around two axes, fully complementary between them: The monuments and archaeological sites on one hand and on the other museums. In this context, emphasis was placed on creating new museums and upgrading the existing ones in emerging tourist destinations. Regarding the monuments and archaeological sites, we focused on continuing the tedious and time consuming program of maintenance and rehabilitation so as to highlight them through an integrated approach by offering quality cultural and tourist product.
In Messinia e.g. during the years 2010-2014, 27 projects amounting to a total budget of € 31 million funded by the NSRF, are well underway or perhaps even already completed.
These projects, implemented by the local Archaeological Service and the Central Directorate of the Ministry, relate to the restoration and promotion of monuments and memorial sets in major archaeological, historic, and tourist areas. For example: the basilica in Christianoupoli, an excellent piece of work in a unique important monument, which has been completed, as well as the maintenance and rehabilitation projects in Hagia Sophia in Lagada, the Transfiguration in Samarina and "Analipsi" in Filiatra. Major interventions and reconstructions are financed in the ancient Messini, as for instance the monasteries of Voulkanon and Velanidia. The restoration of the Church of the Transfiguration in Niokastro in conjunction with the new archaeological museum in the building of Maizonos, the digital representation of the Battle of Navarino as well as smaller interventions in the building of Pasha and the Rampart Makrigianni which give significant and added value to Pylos. The restored towers Mourtzinos and Douraki can host exhibitions and cultural events boosting visitors in Mani.
By the end of the financial period on 12/31/15, the Castle and the Kapodistrian School in Methoni, the Castle of Koroni, the Palace of Nestor in Englianos (with its newly acquired modern technological building and modernized visitor service areas), will show a completely different picture. In addition, the Dance Megaron of Kalamata, a modern cultural infrastructure, which hosted the Dance Festival, a cultural institution of international scope.
The majority of projects carried out by the Ministry of Culture in the Greek Territory followed the method of archaeological direct labor operations. Thus the field of culture is directly related to active employment policies, as by-house operations ensure employment to a significant number of young scientists, archaeologists, architects, civil engineers and conservators of antiquities and blue-collar workers who otherwise would be unemployed. Nationwide the figure is estimated round 5,000 people, who not only found a job and income in difficult times, but also acquired specialized work experience, of extreme value in the near future. If one adds the persons employed by contractors on projects carried out, then we can conclude that the sector is one of the largest employers in the country.
Although the need for protection and enhancement of the monuments are great, one can hardly deny that in recent years the cultural character of the country has essentially changed and that this change has contributed remarkably and directly in halting economic down turn.
Growing international competition between tourist destinations makes differentiation, enrichment and renewal of tourist products, the main objective of the tourist policy of each country and of each destination. Despite the intense and prolonged recession in times of crisis, Culture due to multiple synergies with other sectors is becoming not only a factor for the strengthening of tourism, but also recovery of stranded cost competitiveness of Greek destination and therefore quality upgrade and recovery. In an effort to enhance the attractiveness and reduce the problem of seasonality, enrichment and diversification of the offered cultural product, with targeted view of comparative cultural advantages of the country, play a leading role. According to the "Eurobarometer Survey" the quality of the environment is a key factor for tourist attraction while cultural heritage, art exhibitions and festivals show a steadily rising public. In this context, and relating to the Greek economy, investigation of McKinsey demonstrates the substantial contribution of the cultural product to the creation of demand, value added and income, and shows the direct relationship between the applicable policies to date in the field of culture with the efforts at economic functioning of the country.
In accordance with the "Valuation Study of socio-economic impact of cultural projects" which the expert panel commissioned by the Ministry of Culture drafted in 2014, the overall economic impact of the implementation of projects amounted to € 1 million for culture, attribute over a five-year horizon of 3.44 million €, ie these investments over-tripled in performance. In this context the 31 million invested in Messenia by 2020 will yield 180 million.
The fact that the country in 2014, after five years of recession, achieved positive growth rate factor is thanks to the culture sector, which contributed greatly in diversifying tourism product. And we are fully aware that the reversal of the course of our economy to a large extent is due to the increase of tourists in our country.
In our opinion towards this direction the State, Regional and Local Government, cultural institutions, should join organized accordingly in partnership wherever and whenever needed with the private sector. Initiatives are needed for enhancement and quality management of monuments and museums of the Territory, with further integration in planned marketing as well as opening to modern civilization. Actions are needed to stimulate demand for archaeological sites and monuments, as well as actions aimed at diversified and specialized audiences, such as old age public or new tourism markets.
Accordingly, creating diving parks and marine archaeological sites could be particularly important. Amateur diving activity is a preferred option for people worldwide thus leading to the emergence not only of particular areas but also countries in international destinations for the pursuit.
According to statistics, 2013 recorded an increase of submersibles for recreational purposes by 10% compared to 2012 and 42% in relation to 2011. It is worldwide estimated that there are more than 25 million certified scuba divers, of which at least four million people in Europe. 70% of Europeans choose Mediterranean destinations, with the turnover of diving industry in Europe touches the EUR 2 billion per annum. In Greece, the customers of the diving centers are largely average tourists, who combine their holidays with an occasional diving leisure and less systematic divers, traveling especially to dive. In other words, the number of visitors, seeking a more complex, rich and integrated entertainment experience on vacation.
The development of this sector in Greece only started in 2005, when the sitting areas of Organized Development Diving Parks were institutionalized and thus facilitated diving activities in relation with the past. Marine archaeological sites were declared as Underwater Museums and diving was authorized, though always accompanied by diver guards of antiquities or archeologists.
When it comes to creating Plunger Parks in Listed marine archaeological sites, it goes without saying that these spaces should first be adequately explored and scientifically documented to exclude as much as possible the possibility of causing damage to the antiquities or the possibility of illegal looters.
In this context procedures for creating the first "underwater museum" of Greece in Messinia and the Sporades have already begun. The estimated institutional framework for establishing marine archaeological sites was completed by the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Shipping, the Peloponnese Region and the Municipality of Pylos-Nestoras just a few weeks ago. Thus, the bay of Navarino, where the wreck of the tanker Irene Serenade, which sank in 1980, and the coast of Methoni, where ancient shipwrecks of "Columns" and "Carnivore" can be visited.
The operational plan of the Region of Thessaly for underwater museums and organized dive sites in Sporades and Pagasitikos is at an advanced stage where three scuba spots of archaeological interest have been selected. The underwater archaeological site of the Sporades is today the largest marine archaeological site of our country with a large number of ancient shipwrecks of different periods and occupies an area of approximately 2,000 square kilometers.
To sum up: the rich cultural wealth of Greece is offered for the further promotion of development initiatives in the field of cultural tourism, in conjunction with the regeneration containing urban centers and the regeneration of remote mountain and island regions, thus contributing to the strengthening of the labor market, but also to the elimination of the economic and social disparities which have been heightened by the current crisis. All of the above fulfill the requirements of a green and sustainable development and its target should aim at consolidating a new culture, which stems from the holistic and balanced view of the natural and cultural environment and landscape, which is the only real option for sustainable development. That means a development that will utilize, but at the same time protect the valuable and fragile "raw material". We should realize that cultural heritage is not by itself a perpetually renewable resource.
State structures, Regional and Local Government, and local communities should protect, restore, show and exploit development the single cultural and natural landscape, the major comparative advantage of our country. Furthermore, we should not underestimate the fact that local communities, who are the final recipient of all these interventions.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends,
I would like to end by quoting the words of two modern gurus of theoretical economy of culture. The Canadian Sharon Jeannotte and Dick Stanley in their essay “How will we live together?": “When we attempt to preserve our culture and to share it with others, we are not only expressing who we are, but also how we live together. Therefore, by promoting our culture and our heritage, we are maintaining a strategic resource every bit as important as any nuclear arsenal or oil reserve".