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The continuing campaign for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles

Below is a media release from the IARPS [1], detailing recent initiatives in the campaign to return the Parthenon Sculptures.

More than 200 years after Lord Elgin infamously removed approximately half of the iconic sculptures from the Parthenon and eventually sold them to the British Government, the campaign for their return has been waged by Philhellenes around the world.

The Greek Government has now resolved to renew and intensify its efforts for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures following an extensive consultation and co-ordination meeting between Professor Louis Godart, the newly-elected Chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures (IARPS)1, and the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr Prokopios Pavlopoulos and the Greek Minister of Culture and Sport, Ms Lydia Koniordou. Also present were the Secretary-General of the Presidency of the Republic, Ambassador George Yennimatas, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Culture, Ms Maria Vlazaki, the Advisor on Cultural Affairs to the Presidency of the Republic, Ms Sophia Hiniadou Cambanis, together with the members of the Special National Advisory Committee for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures and senior representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In March 2015 the British Government and the British Museum (where the sculptures formerly known as the Elgin Marbles are presently on display) rejected an offer from UNESCO to participate in mediation talks with their Greek counterparts. The Greek Government is determined to break this deadlock and the intransigence by the British by actively pursuing a direct cultural diplomatic strategy and by strengthening bilateral cultural relations with Great Britain in order to establish a constructive dialogue.

The centrepiece of Greece’s renewed push for the return of the sculptures will be a proposal – made in a true spirit of compromise – to offer recurring, long-term loans of rare archaeological treasures from Greek museums in exchange for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures from the British Museum.
According to Professor Godart, the campaign will underline the uniqueness of the monument and the Parthenon frieze, in order to avoid claims for other individual sculptures which would be seen as a dangerous precedent. The aim is to restore the unity of a monument emblematic of Western civilisation by emphasising the European and international dimensions of the request for the return.

As Professor Godart noted:

“It’s unthinkable that a monument which has been torn apart two hundred years ago, which represents the struggle of the world’s first democracy for its own survival, is divided into two. We must consider that the Parthenon is a monument that represents our democratic Europe so it is vital that this monument be returned to its former glory.”

Greece will also continue to play a leading role and contribute, through multilateral diplomacy (including through UNESCO, the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property, and various international forums), on the issue of the return of cultural objects to their countries of origin.

As Culture Minister Koniordou has explained:

“At a time when the European Union is in need of restating its values, the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles will be a symbolic act that will highlight the fight against the forces that undermine the values and foundations of the European case against those seeking the dissolution of Europe. The Parthenon monument represents a symbol of western civilization. It is the emblem of democracy, dialogue and freedom of thought. Melina Mercouri, an inspired woman, artist and Minister of Culture, started the campaign for the reunification of the Parthenon sculptures in the 80s. Since then this quest for the integrity of the monument has never ceased.”

IARPS welcomes the Greek Government’s renewed commitment to the campaign for return and will be regularly consulting with the Greek Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs and the National Advisory Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures with the aim of informing and exchanging views.
Greece and its supporters will not rest until all the known surviving sculptural elements from the Parthenon are reunited in the Acropolis Museum in full view of the monument which they once adorned.

George Vardas Secretary
12 March 2017

1. Note to Editors: IARPSrepresents19nationalcommitteesspreadthroughoutEurope,theUK,theUnited States, Canada, Brazil and Australia and New Zealand.