Greece Privatization Hits Cultural Sites

The Stoa of Attalos can now be rented out for private functions. (photo by Tilemahos Efthimiadis, via Flickr)
The Stoa of Attalos can now be rented out for private functions. (photo by Tilemahos Efthimiadis, via Flickr)

Last summer, when the fate of the Detroit Institute of Arts collection was uncertain as city creditors were pushing for the sale of artworks, we made the analogy that selling DIA masterpieces would be like asking Greece to sell the Parthenon to help cover its debt. Thankfully that hasn’t come to pass, but a couple of buildings considered “architectural gems” have been put on the privatization list, the Guardian reports, including one structure that sits at the foot of the Acropolis.

Privatization has been ongoing in Greece since 2009, as the country attempts to pay off its monumental debt and head towards economic recovery. But Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has been under increased pressure to pick up the pace, both internally, in order to bring in an overdue €10.1 billion (~$14 billion) aid payment, and externally, from the three international lenders — the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission — known as the troika. So, last week, Samaras’s government agreed to contribute to the state privatization fund “prime properties around the Acropolis, and other landmark buildings,” the Guardian writes, including

refugee tenement blocks built to put up Greeks fleeing the Asia Minor disaster in 1922 and culture ministry offices housed in neo-classical buildings in the picturesque Plaka district at the foot of the Acropolis that were erected shortly after the establishment of the modern Greek state. Both are widely viewed as architectural gems.

The paper goes on to note that the country’s Central Archeological Council also recently approved the leasing of two important ancient sites — the Stoa of Attalos and Panathenaic Stadium — for private purposes; the council had previously refused all such requests.

Both moves have been met with public protests denouncing the “illegal sale” of Greece’s cultural heritage, but there are also those who counter that regulated privatization may be the only thing that can save the country’s archeological treasures from defunding and eventual decay.

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