Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lambrinidis At Signing Ceremony for Cultural Memorandum of Understanding

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Acropolis Museum
Athens, Greece
July 17, 2011

FOREIGN MINISTER LAMBRINIDIS: (Via interpreter.) So ladies and gentlemen, right behind us you can see one of the most important monuments, treasures, of civilization, the Parthenon of the – belonging to the Acropolis. And here we are standing at the Parthenon Museum, which is a modern work of architecture where we can admire the treasure.

We have built this museum not only to protect these monuments from time but also to emphasize the unity of the archeological site, so that there is a direct vision between the museum – from the museum to the Acropolis.

So this is part of the heritage which belongs to the Greek people, but it is a great part of the world heritage as well, the most important part of world heritage. And it is with this – these treasures and many other treasures, Byzantine and others, that Greece is covered all over. They need to be protected in the best possible manner.

So this I can tell you, dear Hillary, that today we are trying to protect our treasures from illegal diggings and excavations. This – and that is why this MOU that we’re about to sign is so important. It will stop the marketing and – illegal marketing and sale, and in this manner we are collaborating to protect the treasures of civilization to the benefit of our people.

And before I conclude, I would like to thank Minister of Culture Pavlos Geroulanos and his collaborators at the Ministry of Culture, who have worked very hard in a very committed manner in order to make this MOU a reality.

(In English.) Dear Hillary, it is my strong wish, my strong hope, that millions of citizens of the Greek country have the opportunity that we are having today to visit Greece and to enjoy this. And as you mentioned in your speech during our foreign ministry meeting, that we don’t simply policies but also values, values born here, let me be so bold as to say, Hillary Clinton, welcome home to Greece.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you very much, Minister Lambrinidis and Minister Geroulanos. And Professor, thank you so much, and all of your colleagues for making this moment possible during our visit to this beautiful city.

It is a great honor for me to be representing the United States, a friend, ally, and partner to Greece, and also to be exemplifying the very warm relations between the American and Greek people.

Millions of visitors have already had the experience of walking through this magnificent museum here in the shadow of the Acropolis and experiencing firsthand the extraordinary gifts that Greece has given over its long history to Western civilization in which my country as well is in your debt.

This agreement that we are signing today will protect Greece’s culturally significant objects even further from looting and sale on the international market. It will be illegal to import protected items from Greece into the United States unless they have been certified by the Greek authorities. And that will help reduce the incentive to illegally remove such objects in the first place.

We know from experience that measures like this work. This will be our 15th cultural property agreement. And in countries from Cambodia to Cyprus, we have seen real results. These agreements build on America’s long-term commitment to cultural preservation. Forty years ago, the United States was the first nation in the world to ratify the World Heritage Convention, and it remains a priority for our government and for me personally.

Let me just conclude by saying that America is just as committed to Greece’s future as we are to preserving your past. During these difficult economic times, we will stand with you. We are confident that the nation that built the Parthenon, invented democracy, and inspired the world can rise to the current challenge.

So thank you all, ministers and others who worked with you to achieve this important agreement. And I now look forward to signing on behalf of the United States. (Applause.)

PRN: 2011/T51-09