Pompeii set to avoid UNESCO-status demotion

50-million-euro chunk of EU money to be allocated by end of year

Pompeii set to avoid UNESCO-status demotion

(By Kate Carlisle) Naples, July 23 - The Italian cultural ministry breathed a sigh of relief on Tuesday when UNESCO said that Italy had shown the verve needed to retain Pompeii's spot in the coveted World Heritage roster. Earlier this month, UNESCO gave Italy until December 31 to apply a series of measures or face having one of its most famous tourist destinations removed from the elite catalogue of heritage locations. "The presence of the two ministers (Italian Minister of Culture Massimo Bray and Territorial Cohesion Minister Carlo Trigilia) has renewed my confidence that the level of attention and monitoring is at its best. UNESCO needed to know this," the national president for UNESCO in Italy, Giovanni Puglisi, said. A plan to restore the archeological site called the Great Pompeii Project is set to show the "commitment" the country has taken on to save one of the world's most famous archeological sites, Bray said on Tuesday. "We must all demonstrate to Europe that the project is capable of winning this challenge we have taken on". Bray visited the centuries-old site together with Trigilia to survey work underway and check that contracts for restoration are being fulfilled. The site has been plagued by accusations of mismanagement and neglect for decades. After recent falls of structures in the past two years there has been growing concern about Italy's ability to protect the 2,000-year-old treasure from further degradation and the impact of the local mafia, the Camorra. Campania Region Tourism Director Pasquale Sommese said earlier this month that he hoped a situation similar to Naples' rubbish problem, which has brought criticism from the European Court of Justice and put the region at risk for fines due to a series of trash crises over the years, did not occur. "I would like to avoid the situation where everyone and no one is responsible," Sommese said. Plans for the revamping and preservation of Pompeii were announced in April. Key points listed in the Great Pompeii Project are to "secure the site's damaged areas and to ensure that this is done using capable, honest businesses, not organized crime". In March, a European Union Commission approved an injection of 105 million euros in restoration funds for Pompeii's ailing monuments, to be combined with matching money from Italy. At least 50 million euros of the money earmarked by the EU for restoration will be allocated by the end of the year, Trigilia announced on Tuesday. A parallel project of private investors and businesses to develop areas surrounding the archeological site is also planned. At the beginning of July, Bray said that Pompeii, as with the Colosseum and other historical sites, needed funds and additional staff to effectively monitor the site and avoid damage by visitors. On Tuesday Bray announced that 10 domus, or ancient Roman homes for the wealthy, in the site will be reopened in the coming weeks. "This is thanks to additional personnel (recently hired)," Bray said. Private funding will also be monitored by "clear guidelines...a framework of rules and strict controls," Bray said. The growing trend of turning to private investors to restore some of the country's monuments has at times been met with disapproval. Plans for a major restoration of the Colosseum to be funded by shoe magnate Diego Della Valle have been a point of contention between government yay-sayers and consumer group Codacons, which has a long-running legal complaint that the bidding process on the project lacked transparency and yielded too many concessions to Della Valle. "There is no ban against those who are looking to help enhance our cultural heritage," Bray said on Tuesday. Private work will be monitored by "clear guidelines...a framework of rules and strict controls".

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