Priceless Greek artifacts being stolen before watchful eyes
Robberies at museums highlight failure of current security measures
A stream of missing cultural artifacts has been reported in Greece as of
late. Broken display cases at Greece's Museum of Olympia, where the
first Olympic Games were held thousands of years ago, have stunned
members of the Archaeological Service. President of the Association of
Greek Archaeologists Despina Koutsoumpa says treasure dating back to the
Classical, Hellenistic and Byzantine periods have disappeared from the
museum, including "a golden ring stamp, copper sculptures from the
eighth century BC, coins and clay vases."
The burglaries in the National and Municipal Galleries during February, as well an armed robbery at the Museum in Olympia last month, has exposed weaknesses in the protection of cultural heritage sites around Greece.
Even worse, the Greek minister of culture has decided to cut funding for museum security by 20 percent. The Greek government is also planning personnel cuts of 30-50 per cent at the ministry of culture.
The law plans to combine various arms of the archaeological services into one in order to "reduce expenses," thereby leaving sectors that need specific protection vulnerable to the massive budget cuts currently in effect.
Koutsoumpa says that the Archaeological Service has never had an adequate budget anyway. "The ministry never received above one percent of the national budget, the service always lacked personnel. Whether coming from the national budget or European funds, over 60 percent of the money was always for wages," she said.
The Greek ministry of culture and tourism comprises 7,000 employees, including 950 archaeologists, civil servants, and 2,000 guards and night-guards. Annually, 3,500 extra employees are hired on short term contracts. In November 2011, ten percent of the total workforce of the ministry of culture was forced to leave the service and retire, as part of plans to reduce the total number of public sector employees in Greece.
Further personnel cuts would mean that the ministry of culture will be unable to cover even its basic operations.
The personnel of the Greek Archaeological Service have been working for poor salaries with limited funding. Net salaries of archaeologists in 2009 ranged from $1,150 a month for newly appointed staff to $2,020 for those with more than 35 years in the service.
As of last year, a newly appointed archaeologist receives $876 each month, after taxes and social security contributions, representing "a 35 percent wage reduction," Koutsoumpa said. In 2011, the budget for the Archaeological Service was $15.7 million - down 35 percent from 2010 - and in 2012, it is facing an even more severe cut.
Apart from protection, the Archaeological Service is also responsible for 210 museums that include collections of pre-historic, classical and Byzantine antiquities; 250 organized archaeological sites; and 19,000 declared archaeological sites and historical monuments. It also runs 366 projects co-funded with the European Union - with a total budget of $650 million.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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