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NEWS

Feature – Protecting cultural heritage
01.11.2012, 09:10 (CET)
The protection and conservation of cultural heritage, together with regional and international cooperation in this field, are in the spotlight this week, with two conferences taking place under the auspices of the Cyprus Presidency. One is the 4th International Euro-Mediterranean Conference on Cultural Heritage issues, ‘EuroMed 2012’, which began on Monday, October 29, and will continue until November 3 at the Amathus Hotel in Lemesos (Limassol). The other is a more specialised international symposium, to be held at the Anastasios G. Leventis Foundation, in Lefkosia (Nicosia) on November 3, during which the effectiveness of existing legislation for the protection of archaeological cultural heritage in the Mediterranean will be discussed.

The agenda for this year’s International ‘EuroMed 2012’ Conference, an initiative of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology of the Cyprus University of Technology, has been adapted to the goals of the Cyprus Presidency for cultural heritage.

Participants from more than 60 countries

According to Dr. Marinos Ioannides, main organiser and chair of the Conference, this year’s event will include hundreds of audiovisual presentations and workshops, as well as demonstrations from academia and industry. Policy makers, professionals, students and delegates from more than 60 countries will be participating in the conference. 

Mr. Ioannides explains that the main target during the week-long conference is to discuss future methodologies and plans for regional and international cooperation relating to the protection, conservation and electronic documentation of the past, “whether it can be found in books, drawings, architecture or archeology”.

Conference ambitions

The conference aims to mobilise competent stakeholders from all EU Member States and to raise awareness among European and international organisations such as the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, UNESCO, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), and others.

It is worth mentioning that the conference, which is taking place in the framework of the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the EU, comes just before the final negotiations for the EU’s next Framework Programme, ‘Horizon 2020’. The programme is expected to be the biggest in the world, in terms of financial support on research, innovation, technological development and demonstration activities.

According to Mr. Ioannides, the existence of a large number of artifacts and archeological sites listed as World Heritage sites by UNESCO, makes Cyprus the ideal location for the conference.  

Challenges in a period of transition

“We live in a period characterised by important and sudden changes both in terms of the environment as well as in terms of society and technology,” says the Conference chair.

“Climate change, military conflicts and human intervention on the environment, combined with the groundbreaking developments in both technology and society, offer serious challenges to us all. For this reason, close cooperation between professionals, academics, citizens and international organisations is essential for effective research and technological progress in the field of cultural heritage,” says Mr. Ioannides. 

An international affair

Among the number of distinguished keynote speakers at ‘EuroMed 2012’ are Mr. Kishore Rao, Director of UNESCO's World Heritage Centre and Mr. Michael T. Jones, Google's Chief Technology Advocate.

The ultimate goal of the conference, according to its organisers, is to bring the relevant stakeholders, i.e. those responsible on an international level, as close as possible, to the target of achieving a common understanding on the current needs of matters relating to cultural heritage. Informing, but also involving, the wider public on issues pertaining to the management of cultural heritage, is of great importance.

“It would be very useful for every European citizen to be aware of the recent developments and the technological achievements in this field. Parts of the Euro Med Conference are dedicated solely to the issue of public awareness,” Mr. Ioannides concludes.

Legislation

The legal framework of the protection of cultural and archeological heritage in the Mediterranean is the main target of the international symposium taking place on November 3, at the Anastasios G. Leventis Foundation in Lefkosia (Nicosia).

On behalf of the Foundation, its Director Mr. Charalambos Bakirtzis expressed the view that in many cases, legislation is outdated and does not cater for the needs of today.

“It is essential for experts to discuss, compare and draw correlations in order to establish whether the existing legislation is sufficient, modernised and homogenous in the regions of the Mediterranean,” he says.

Issues under discussion

During the symposium, issues such as the definition of cultural heritage and antiquities, their role in today’s society and the reasons for protecting them, as well as the role of local government in protecting ancient heritage and the creation of local archeological museums will all be discussed.

Furthermore, emphasis is expected to be placed on the question of whether there is room for improvement to international legislation on the return of moveable archeological objects located in various museums to their country of origin. Participants will also evaluate the ability of existing legislation to sufficiently control the antiquity trade in all countries, and examine ways in which a new legislation could protect the environment and sites of ancient monuments and landmarks.

Speeches

The symposium’s opening address will be delivered by Mrs. Lina Mendoni, an archeologist and Secretary General of Greece’s Ministry of Culture, while Vice Advocate General of ICCROM Italy, Mr. Maurizio Fiorilli, Mr. Olivier Poisson, France’s General Heritage Curator, and Mrs. Maria Hadjicosti, Director of the Department of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus, will also be among the speakers.