On 29-30 August 2013 an important meeting on Mt Athos was held in the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki. Its purpose was to finalise the framework for the integrated management and conservation of the cultural and natural heritage of the Athonite Peninsula in Northern Greece, a mixed World Heritage Site and Natura2000 area.
High-level delegations from the Holy Community of Mt Athos (including the Abbots of Xiropotamou and Simonopetra Monasteries), the Greek Ministries of Culture and Sports (headed by Secretary General Lina Mendoni) / Environment, Energy and Climate Change / Foreign Affairs, other state institutions, and UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre (led by Anna Sidorenko) took part in this working meeting, which was held in an atmosphere of friendly cooperation and consensus.
The first day of the meeting set the background through expert papers clarifying:
- the spiritual specificities and traditions of Mt Athos;
- the pertinent Greek legislation on the conservation of sensitive cultural and natural sites;
- the UNESCO guidelines for World Heritage Sites, complemented by contributions by experts from IUCN (Josep-Maria Mallarach) and ICOMOS (Martin Stancliffe), who had already visited Mt Athos.
Afterwards, based on the preliminary report prepared by a multi-disciplinary scientific team (appointed by the Holy Community and coordinated by Thymio Papayannis), the participants debated initially the proposed principles of the management study and arrived rapidly at an agreement on them. The debate continued the following day in regard to the structure and contents of the integrated management study, based on a first draft proposal prepared by Med-INA. Finally, concrete issues were examined concerning administrative and financial aspects, so that the study could be prepared rapidly, with the entire process expedited by the Holy Community and supported by the Greek authorities and the World Heritage Centre. The conclusions of the workshop confirm the climate of cooperation reached by the three sides, which constitutes a necessary prerequisite for the conservation of the rich cultural and natural heritage of Mt Athos.
Med-INA has been providing technical and administrative support to Thymio Papayannis, coordinator of the integrated study, mainly through planner Giorgos Dimitropoulos.