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Greece/ 3.4 International cultural co-operation  

3.4.1 Overview of main structures and trends

Several different state actors are involved in international cultural co-operation policy and action, including: the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, not only through its Directorate of International Relations, but also through other departments involved in specific sectoral responsibilities, such as the Hellenic Foundation for Culture; and, the Directorate of Cultural Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Greek approach to international cultural co-operation is informed by its history and heritage, its geopolitical position and regional relationships, as well as traditional policy commitments and major events affecting its recent and current priorities. The following key elements play a significant role in current developments:

  • the need to increase the financial yield of cultural heritage valorisation, at a time of stern financial austerity, especially through major initiatives in tourism addressing key emerging markets for Greek tourism such as Israel, Turkey and China;
  • the continued emphasis on the preservation and valorisation of ancient Greek and Byzantine archaeological heritage, as well as the value apportioned to the Classical tradition, which extends the geopolitical borders of the Greek state;
  • Greece's traditional cultural bonds with countries sharing an Orthodox tradition, including neighbours in South-Eastern Europe;
  • its old and complex relationship with Turkey, marked by the long-standing and fruitful co-existence of Greek traditions with those of other cultural groups, including Muslim and Jewish, but also with the severe tensions associated with the Cyprus conflict, arising after the Turkish invasion of 1974, and not fully healed even after the recent accession of Cyprus to the European Union;
  • increasing waves of economic immigration, related to the phenomena of rising cultural insecurity, re-examination of questions of identity and culture and xenophobia;
  • the unfulfilled hopes of leveraging the success of the 2004 Athens Olympics in order to create a platform for cultural regeneration and growth; and
  • last by not least, current worries regarding the future of Greece's participation in the Eurozone, related to public dissatisfaction with European politics, despite the steady orientation of Greece towards its European identity, throughout the second half of the 20th century and especially since the fall of military dictatorship in 1974 and the accession to the European Union in 1981.

The complexity of issues and concerns determine to a great extent the nature of the actors and instruments involved. International cultural relations, understood in the sense of relations in the arts and heritage, involve the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. On the other hand, bilateral issues with Turkey, and with northern neighbours, are often within the purview of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Elements of cultural diplomacy involving inter-faith and religious instruments come under the authority of the Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious affairs. Special services, such as the General Secretariat of Greeks abroad, and the Special Service for Development and Cooperation, belong to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Institute of Intercultural Education is under the auspices of the Ministry of Education; the Hellenic Foundation for Culture is under the Ministry of Culture. Policies regarding the integration of economic immigrants, as well as of the Muslim minority and the Roma population, are coordinated by the Ministry of the Interior, and involve the cooperation of local and regional government.

Chapter published: 14-08-2015

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