NEWS

Culture Minister trying to restore order in new post

Giorgos Voulgarakis has spent a year as minister of culture. At this, the second major ministry he has headed, he has learned a lot, he says, and done a lot. What he wants is ideas; the rest he can handle himself. He is even set to publish a book. «After a year, I’ve worked out how to formulate a cultural policy that can be adopted by all without rousing opposition.» In his book he wants «to define what culture means in Greece today. Apart from certain policies, like that of Melina [Mercouri, the late culture minister] on the Parthenon Marbles, there was no line that could be embraced by the majority.» He is relaxed in his office, with pictures of his four children, his MP3 player with 10,000 tunes for every mood. «I have jazz, hymns and Petrelis. I listen to classical music, Pavarotti. I have no prejudices.» Accustomed to the the political scene, he says: «I’m not at risk of putting on airs. If I were I would have done it when I was young. By the age of 26, I was already on New Democracy’s political council, with [senior ND statesmen] Averof, Papaconstantinou, Rallis, Tsaldaris, Stephanopoulos, Mitsotakis. At 28, I was a deputy and at 29 I became a minister.» Why is he telling me this? «When you spend a long time in a sphere, you soften up a bit.» He says that all he wants to do is achieve something. He starts with the 30 cases concerning the return of antiquities to Greece which the ministry is negotiating, the documentation of all the neoclassical buildings in Plaka that will change use to become lively culture venues, the ministry’s move to Rendi in July, and the highlighting of art by migrants at the Tsaousoglou factory. The Arts Academy is being revived and the long-suffering roof over Akrotiri on Santorini will be reinforced. «I don’t claim to know it all. What’s needed are ideas, organization and the right people. I’m working on it.»