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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 13 September 2014
4 SATURDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 2014 AUSTRALIA CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Not only a debt crisis The markets of China and India soon followed," said Mr Yeroulanos, who went on to clarify that apart from open- ing up new markets, the sec- ond reason that Greece has seen an increase in tourist arrivals is the fact that life in Athens returned back to normality after a period of upheaval. The former Greek minis- ter for Culture Tourism and Sports believes that tour- ism in Greece will continue to grow even further in the next 10 years. "As long as the state reduces the barriers to visitors, and I have to say this policy is con- tinued by the current tour- ism minister, and as long as tourism operators keep their horizons open and welcome new visitors, the number of tourists will continue to rise," he said. Pavlos Yeroulanos was in Melbourne on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition 'Gods, Myths and Mortals' at the Hellenic Museum, a col- laborative project with the Benaki Museum in Athens. He is a great-grandson of Antonis Benakis, the found- er of the Benaki Museum, and his family is heavily involved, in a volunteer ca- pacity, with the running of the museum. For the next ten years, the leading Greek museum will collaborate with the Hellenic Museum in Melbourne in order to of- fer to Melbourne's Greek and non-Greek audiences the op- portunity to travel through the centuries of Greek histo- ry and culture via the objects that have survived them. The Benaki Museum is the only museum in the world to effectively follow the Greek culture from prehistoric times to the present day, said Mr Yeroulanos. "The Benaki Museum does not believe that just because we had the Golden Age of Pericles in Athens, there was nothing culturally important before or after that period. To the contrary, it brings togeth- er all the different historical periods of Hellenism and highlights the links of Hel- lenic culture with other cul- tures," he stated. "What is happening in Mel- bourne is very important. A microcosm of the Benaki Mu- seum will be exhibited here for the next ten years. From prehistoric times to present day. Very important artefacts, such as the golden kylix, the painting of the death of mod- ern Greece's first governor Ioannis Kapodistrias and the sword of the hero of the War of Independence Theodoros Kolokotronis will be exhib- ited, amongst others, in order to show the Greek presence throughout the millennia, in order to make every Greek in Melbourne proud of their heritage and in order to share with the rest of the world our culture. These exhibits very rarely leave Greece, but they will be here in Melbourne." The way Greek history is taught in schools, the breakup of history into sep- arate periods, as if the times of Alexander the Great are in- dependent from the Roman era, or the Roman era is in- dependent from Byzantium and Byzantium separate from the Ottoman empire and the Greek War of Independence does not help the way Greeks see themselves and their cul- ture, Pavlos Yeroulanos be- lieves. "These periods have their very own characteristics, but it is very important to notice how much they have in com- mon with each other, start- ing from ancient times all the way to the present. The Greek values that survive through time encompass our entire history, the whole course of Greek civilisation, not only specific periods. "If we do not understand as Greeks what unites our his- tory, then we will always re- main cut off from anything we've done in the past. If we cannot see our story in a holistic diachronic way we cannot understand its impor- tance, or the historical and cultural importance of what we create ourselves today and how this might impact our future. "Such a change in the per- ception of our history and culture will also change the way we perceive ourselves and the way others perceive us," he said. Asked about the current cul- tural landscape in crisis-hit Greece, the former minis- ter said that in recent years Greece has seen a large in- crease in cultural activity at all levels and that this is very promising. "It's like having the people saying that the economic crisis we are going through does not mean that we will cease to exist as Greeks or that we will stop creating," he stressed. While admitting that as a result of the crisis there are difficulties in funding cultur- al initiatives and organisa- tions in Greece, he also stat- ed that even with less money the cultural scene in Greece is alive. Organisations with much larger budgets in the past, such as the Greek National Opera, the National Theatre or the Benaki Museum, man- aged not only to survive with less money, but to be creative and productive as well. "The crisis poses difficulties but there is no reason for an- yone to hide or to be afraid. "The Benaki Museum was one of the first organisations that refused to surrender to the crisis. The museum said we must be present, the voice of Greece must be heard. "I am now in Melbourne because of the collaboration with the Hellenic Museum. In two weeks I will be in Chi- cago, where the Benaki Mu- seum will present the Byz- antine Greeks in a very dy- namic and innovative way in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, the J. P. Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Art Institute of Chicago, three of America's most im- portant museums, have host- ed or are hosting exhibitions for the Greeks of Byzantium. Once again Greece, its mu- seums, the Benaki Museum, show how important it is to present to the world our cul- tural heritage, and the fact that we are still here fight- ing and creating." Pavlos Yeroulanos believes that Greece is at a very criti- cal transition stage in con- fronting its crisis. "Up until today our priority was to be able to repay our loans to our lenders. Even if this was not forced upon us we should have done it our- selves. The last thing that I want is for my generation to leave as a heritage to our children a huge debt," he said. "Repaying the debt is a pain- ful and a rightful step in ad- dressing the crisis. However, the Greek crisis is not about borrowing and debt. The cri- sis is about the lack of insti- tutions and structures needed in the country if Greece is to progress. "It's time to call a spade a spade. To see the real reasons behind our dead ends. To ad- dress the weaknesses we have as a state. Weaknesses which do not allow the state to help its citizens and make their everyday lives better and easier. "In this area, I have not seen the changes that I would have expected to see. It is im- portant to go ahead with the structural changes needed in order to progress." Asked whether or not there are forces in Greek socie- ty, in the political scene, in the business sector or else- where that might be able to rally and support such an ef- fort for reform and structural changes he responded in the affirmative. "Clearly there are. Whoever knows the Greeks, whether in Greece or abroad, knows what they are capable of. The people in Greece know what is needed because they experience it in their every- day lives. Like other business people, I too, as a business- man, experience the difficul- ties faced by others, by peo- ple who want to create some- thing good and positive for our country. "The question is whether or not there will be any re- sponse by the leadership, especially the political lead- ership, but not only that, the banking, the business, the media, judicial leader- ship. All these powers must change the way they oper- ate in order to be able to provide to all citizens the conditions which will allow them to be creative. This is the great challenge that is in front of the Greece," he said in his concluding re- marks. Pavlos Yeroulanos stud- ied history at Williams Col- lege in the United States and holds a Master's Degree in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Gov- ernment at Harvard Univer- sity and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Man- agement. From October 2009 un- til May 2012 he was a key member of the governments of George Papandreou. "It's time to call a spade a spade. To see the real reasons behind our dead ends. To address the weaknesses we have as a state." Pavlos Yeroulanos with former Greek prime minister George Papandreou, inspecting ancient artefacts seized by police from illicit dealers. Pavlos Yeroulanos during an interview with CNN's Richard Quest.
20 September 2014