The Association of Cypriot Archaeologists per its statutory role and aims wishes to express its disagreement and disappointment with the decision by the Council of Ministers to declassify a Second Schedule Ancient Monument (ΚΔΠ No. 135/2014) that protects the archaeological site in plot 223, sheet 51/27 Ε1-51/27 Ε2 at Geroskipou.
Beyond the legal issue regarding the interpretation of the Constitution, which in our view could ostensibly be read otherwise, the decision to declassify an Ancient Monument at Geroskipou instead of reinforcing the henceforth management of cultural heritage in church-owned properties in view of the impending land development projects, it significantly weakens it, while at the same time generates new issues with the management of already declared Second Schedule Ancient Monuments. In the past, as far as we know, the Department of Antiquities never sought the written consent of local ecclesiastical authorities for the declaration of any Ancient Monument in church-owned properties, as there are no relevant provisions for this in the Antiquities Law. At this point, it should be noted that several already declared Ancient Monuments in church-owned properties are spread across dozens of communities in Cyprus and are constantly conserved with 50% of the total expenses being contributed by the State because they are officially declared Ancient Monuments. In the likely event of declassification of these monuments based on the recent judgement by the Attorney General and the consequent decision by the Council of Ministers, both the monuments and the respective communities hosting them will suffer an irreparable blow in terms of the protection, conservation and preservation of cultural heritage.
It should further be noted that the Second Schedule of Ancient Monuments also includes the ten Byzantine and post-Byzantine painted churches in the Troodos region, which the Republic of Cyprus managed to include in the UNESCO World Heritage List after a lengthy struggle. One of the criteria that significantly contributed to their inclusion in this prestigious list was their declaration as Ancient Monuments and their resultant protection by the state. Today, due to the Attorney General’s judgement and the consequent Council of Ministers’ decision, we are in grave danger of becoming a disgrace to world culture, as per the latter decision the declaration of these monuments as Ancient Monuments will no longer be valid, simply because the written consent of the Church was not sought.
The Association of Cypriot Archaeologists reiterates that one of our basic principles and convictions is that antiquities, either in the form of ancient monuments, or as mobile finds form an integral part of the collective cultural identity of the inhabitants of Cyprus and the entire world. At the same time, we demand that the Antiquities Law is fully enforced, as it explicitly and clearly states that “all antiquities lying undiscovered at the date of the coming into operation of this Law in or upon any land shall be the property of the Government”. We kindly request that the Council of Ministers and the Attorney General re-examine their interpretation of the Constitution in regard to this fine legal point, so as to align the protection of antiquities with the modern practices that rule the Antiquities Law, the relevant European and international legislations, and the International Conventions signed by the Republic of Cyprus. The Association of Cypriot Archaeologists refuses to accept discounts in regard to the protection of antiquities, nor will it accept to sacrifice any of them for easy profit or thoughtless growth. When our culture heritage suffers, democracy itself suffers.
“Deterioration or disappearance of any item of the cultural or natural heritage constitutes a harmful impoverishment of the heritage of all the nations of the world.” (UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage 1972, Paris, 16 November 1972, Preamble).