Lasting for years, the delay in the beginning and completion of a rescue excavation by the Ministry of Culture on the island of Chios has provoked the Ombudsman reaction. Following citizen’s complaints, the Ombudsman is now asking the competent authorities for a prompt response in order to deal with the problem.
As far as the case of Chios is concerned, after the Independent Authority’s intervention, the Ministry of Culture has asked the competent Ephorate of Antiquities to prioritize the expense in its 2013 budget, so that the rescue excavation at the seized property is completed as soon as possible.
Many similar cases have been reported to the Independent Authority until now, concerning excavations for the rescue of a monument during the carrying out of some technical work. For the case of Chios in particular, the Ministry of Culture tried to justify the state of affairs imputing responsibility to the Ministry of Finance that has not granted the credit requested.
The Ombudsman Findings point out that, due to excessive delays, citizens cannot turn to advantage their property for an uncertain period of time, while the right to property protected by the Constitution is being offended.
“When the prohibition of building exceeds reasonable time limits –which in the worst of cases should not go beyond five years- it is no more an extraordinary measure due to the carrying out of some technical work but a permanent state of binding”, the Independent Authority underlines.
The thorough study of such cases of binded properties has led to the following general conclusions:
1. When too long, rescue excavation surpasses the objective of immediate rescue and turns into a systematic excavation demanding an expropriation, which though does not take place.
2. Failing of coping with rescue excavations is mainly due to credit insufficiency and it often constitutes the major problem Ephorates of Antiquities have to deal with. A resolution for cooperation between the Departments of the Ministry of Culture and the political leadership, advertized as soon as 2000, anticipated the implementation of “severe excavation politics” and the prioritization of rescue excavations against excavations on purely scientific grounds. Nevertheless, all efforts have proved fruitless and the problem still worries many proprietors of real estate. After waiting years and years, citizens are often prompted to take on the funding of the excavation themselves.
3. However, delays in rescue excavations prove ruinous in financial terms as well, since the Ministry of Culture is being asked to pay, for too long a deprivation of property’s use, sums for compensation that in sum total draw near or even surpass the expropriated property’s value.
The Ombudsman, who adressed his Findings to both Ministries of Culture and Finance, has also suggested that administrative measures should be combined to providing for financial compensations.