Greece has been a State Party to the 2003 Convention since 2007. The main body for implementing the Convention is the Directorate of Modern Cultural Assets and Intangible Cultural Heritage (MCA&ICH) of the Ministry of Culture and Sports and, in 2012, a National Scientific Committee for the Implementation of the Convention was also established. The Law for the Protection of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage in General (2002) provides an overall framework for the safeguarding and management of heritage including living heritage.
There are no specific training courses in intangible cultural heritage management, but a number of universities and other higher educational institutions are starting to incorporate the subject into their teaching (in a variety of disciplines) and the Directorate of MCA&ICH has held discussions with university staff, researchers and postgraduate students on these questions. In addition, the Directorate has also organized a capacity-building seminar for over 40 employees of the Ministry who are involved in the implementation of the Convention. Documentation is held by the Hellenic Folklore Research Centre, the Academy of Athens (folklore materials, musical recordings, photographs and audio-visual records) and a number of other institutes, folklore and cultural associations, specialist museums and so on. Some of these archival collections are digitized and made available to the general public.
Greece has established an inventory known as the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage which is maintained by the Directorate of MCA&ICH and organized according to the five domains described in the 2003 Convention. The main criterion for inclusion is the active desire of the bearers to safeguard the element and that it should fulfil the requirements to be intangible cultural heritage under the 2003 Convention. Viability is taken into account since only elements that are still practised are included and threats to future viability are considered. A special inventory form has been developed which adapts the 2003 Convention to the Greek context, and includes such fields as spaces and means of performance/enactment and the associated material elements. Each entry should be updated every five years through an open call to the bearer community. Bearers are expected to initiate inscriptions to the inventory and are supported by experts in this process; the Directorate of MCA&ICH organizes information meetings for bearers, cultural associations, museums, municipal authorities, trade-unions, independent researchers and others for this purpose. As a consequence, non-governmental organizations are active also in these efforts.
A major policy priority in implementing the Convention in Greece is to find possible synergies between intangible cultural heritage and sustainable development, especially in rural and isolated communities. Local and civil society actors are becoming more aware that their heritage deserves to be safeguarded as part of structured planning, and the case of wooden shipbuilding involved a working group which coordinated various public and civil society actors in a coherent safeguarding plan. As for other safeguarding measures, several initiatives for research into intangible cultural heritage safeguarding have been put in place such as the creation of a database for Greek Shadow Theatre containing rich content. A number of research-based institutions are involved in such research while some of these projects were conducted by independent researchers, non-governmental organizations, private bodies, cultural institutions and museums. In many cases, an Internet database open to the general public is an output of the project. Most communities are ready to share information on their heritage; nevertheless, bearers are also aware of the dangers from excessive publicity (leading to trivialization), tourism and pseudo-folkloric performances at public events.
Educational, awareness-raising and informational programmes aimed at the general public include a series of information meetings held by the Directorate of MCA&ICH. These include smaller meetings for community members, independent researchers, research institutions and museums as well as larger, regional ones: in 2015, around 150 people from various cultural associations of the Epirus region attended an information meeting. Outcomes of such meetings can include inventorying a particular element or series of elements or holding conferences. In 2015, the Directorate of MCA&ICH collaborated with the Athens Ethnofest (ethnographic festival) to foster discourse on intangible cultural heritage among young film makers and scientists. Within communities, local museums are often a key factor for safeguarding local identity and interacting with local communities. An example of a formal educational programme was ‘Greek Music through Shadow Theatre’ developed by the Directorate of MCA&ICH and the Museum of Greek Folk Art and Popular Musical Instruments, along with a puppeteer, which was targeted at 5-12-year-old school pupils. The Directorate plans to collaborate with the UNESCO Venice Office and the Regional Centre for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in South-Eastern Europe (category 2 centre based in Sofia, Bulgaria) to conduct capacity-building workshops for bearers and local communities.
Non-formal means of transmitting knowledge are closely intertwined with social structures and several cultural associations maintain traditional transmission systems for music, dance, pottery-making, embroidery and other elements. Education for the protection of natural spaces and places of memory necessary for expressing the intangible cultural heritage includes work relating to the sacred groves of Epirus in which the value of these sites for local people and biodiversity is studied.
In terms of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, documentation on shared intangible cultural heritage is found on the website on the Mediterranean Diet to which information is regularly uploaded. Greece also participates in regional cooperation through the category 2 centre in Sofia and the South-East European Experts Network on Intangible Cultural Heritage (organized by the category 2 centre in Sofia and the UNESCO Venice Office). Meetings of this network played a crucial role in involving Greek experts in implementing the Convention and provide an important forum for the exchange of information and best practices. Greece has also collaborated with the Republic of Cyprus and the International Scientific Society for Interdisciplinary Studies in Drystone Walling to establish an international network of experts in dry-stone constructions and the art of dry-stone walling.
Greece has two elements inscribed on the Representative List. The Mediterranean Diet is a multinational one (inscribed in 2013 with Cyprus, Croatia, Spain, Italy, Morocco and Portugal) which is multidimensional, encompassing not only traditional cultivation and nutrition, but also philosophy, symbolism, social institutions, local customs and other cultural aspects. The central role played by women in practising, transmitting and safeguarding this element is clear and its inscription has served to strengthen local cultural identity, positively impact biological diversity and promote intercultural dialogue: the local community association is now active in a Pan-European grouping of emblematic communities for the element. Much of the safeguarding is focused on education (especially for school-age children) and promotion through local events. The Know-how of cultivating mastic on the island of Chios (inscribed in 2014) is an element that involves both sexes and all age groups either as family groups or as co-workers, although this traditional form of agricultural production is now often carried out by immigrants to Chios who are trained in it by elderly bearers. The Mastic Growers’ Association acts as a go-between for the growers with the market and a non-exclusive committee comprising this and other associations, the regional authority, the local municipality, a university, the Piraeus Bank Foundation and others now oversees its safeguarding. Planned measures include establishing a Centre for Mastic Safeguarding in the local museums, to undertake research, educational and promotional activities.