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Finnish event in suport of the reunification of the Elgin Marbles

As the Greek president’s visit to Finland [1] continues, he has attended a seminar organised by the Finnish Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles. The diversity of support for the campaign continues to show that it is far from being just a Greek issue, despite attempts by Britain to portray it as such.

Athens News Agency [2]

Helsinki event for return of Parthenon Marbles

HELSINKI (ANA-MPA) — President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, on a state visit to Finland, expressed hope that the Parthenon Marbles, which are currently in the British Museum, will soon be placed “in the spot awaiting them”, a reference to the New Acropolis Museum that will be inaugurated next month.

The Greek president addressed a seminar on the Parthenon Marbles on Wednesday evening at the University of Helsinki, organised by the Finnish Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles, which was set up last year as part of the International Association for the reunification of the Parthenon friezes.

The need for the return of the Marbles was stressed by Committee’s president, former Finnish ambassador to Greece Ole Norrback, an archaeologist, the director of the New Acropolis Museum, Dimitris Pantermalis, as well as noted Cambridge professor and chairman of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles Anthony Snodgrass.

The speakers, both during their addresses and a preceding press conference, noted that they had recently brought up the issue of the Marbles’ return in the British House of Commons, while Prof. Pantermalis reiterated that replicas of the Parthenon Marbles already in the British Museum could supplement the original Marbles if the latter were returned to Athens and displayed at the new Acropolis Museum, erected 400 metres from the Acropolis.

In a brief greeting, Papoulias stressed that the Committee’s efforts are proof that the return of the Marbles was not the cause of just one country, but an international cause, just as the message of the Acropolis regarding “the moderation and human scale in all our activities” is a universal one.

Prof. Norrback, the second longest-serving minister in Finland between 1979 and 1999, before leaving politics to become a diplomat, said the hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games by London provided the UK with a unique opportunity to act in accordance with international agreements and contemporary reasoning, by announcing the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens.

“This would be a perfect combination of the noble principles of antiquity and modern-day application of the Olympic Spirit, and such an action would display genuine respect for other civilisations and their cultural legacies,” Norrback stressed.

Later, Papoulias and Finnish President Tarja Halonen, who is also a proponent for the return of the Marbles, inaugurated a photo exhibition on the Acropolis restoration works and of the New Acropolis Museum, after which Papoulias hosted a reciprocal reception in honor of Halonen.

Greece has vigorously campaigned for the return of the priceless 5th century BC Parthenon Marbles — friezes and other structural parts of the Parthenon — from the British Museum.

The Marbles, which date from between 447 BC and 432 BC, were removed from the Parthenon — the temple dedicated to the ancient goddess Athena that crowns the Acropolis — by notorious British diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th century with the tacit permission of local Ottoman overlords then ruling in the area.

Elgin had crews slice off the friezes and other parts of the impressive Parthenon temple, shipping then off to England before being forced to sell them off to the British Museum.

Athens News Agency [3]

Papoulias continues Finland visit

HELSINKI (ANA-MPA / N. Megadoukas) — Greek President Karolos Papoulias’ four-day official visit to Finland continued on Wednesday with separate meetings with Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen and Parliament Speaker Sauli Niinist√∂.

In a brief address before the Finnish Parliament, Papoulias pointed out the need to “expand democracy to the social and economic sector,” and to “minimise the democracy deficit in the EU.”

He also called for “better understanding within the EU to avoid disappointing our peoples,” stressing that “speaking about Greece, there is indeed a sense of disappointment stemming from the EU … This is due to the EU red tape and to certain big countries that want to play a leading role in the EU rejecting the democratic equality of all its members,” he clarified.

Papoulias underlined the momentum characterising bilateral relations and referred to Greece’s OSCE chairmanship for 2009, saying that “we are following Finland’s steps and I hope that we will be equally successful, despite the fact that now we are faced with more problems.”

The Finnish parliament speaker issued an invitation to Greek Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas to visit Finland.

Later, Papoulias attended a mass at Uspenski Cathedral in Helsinki, led by the head of the Finnish Orthodox Church, Archbishop of Karelia and All Finland Leo, and the head of its most populous Helsinki diocese, Metropolitan Ambrosius. In the evening, he is scheduled to address a seminar organised by the Finnish Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles at the Helsinki University.

Earlier on Wednesday morning Papoulias attended an event by the Greece-Finland Business Forum that was addressed by Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis, who underlined Athens’ political will to promote bilateral economic and commercial cooperation with Helsinki.

Varvitsiotis pointed out that “opportunities are always present despite the ongoing economic crisis,” stressing that “the two countries can further strengthen their cooperation.” He underlined Greece’s central role in the economic progress of SE Europe, adding that it can facilitate the Finnish businesses that wish to become active in the region’s rapidly developing market. He stressed that “the same can be done in the case of the Black Sea countries with which Greece has forged strong economic relations,” pointing out “the rising geo-strategic importance of the specific region for obvious reasons.”

Varvitsiotis referred to the economic crisis, underlining that Greece, as a member of the Euro-zone, enjoys political and economic stability and has the largest per capita income in the region.

The deputy FM also underlined that last year Greece had a satisfactory rate of exports, reminded that it has the third largest commercial fleet in the world and referred extensively to the government measures adopted to protect the Greek economy from the global economic crisis.

On the sector of renewable energy sources, he stressed that the ideal climate conditions in Greece allow for new investments in clean energy.