A number of the papers this weekend carried a similar story relating to the recent change of government in Greece.
The basis of the story is relatively factual – that the country is reviewing existing contracts that the government holds and is looking to save money where possible. From that point onwards though, the story is a complete fabrication, unless somebody else can point me to evidence to the contrary.
The story relates to the visit late last year to Greece of a team of Laywers, which included Amal Clooney. The way the story is portrayed is that whatever was agreed in Athens is now to be ripped up – and that her law firm is no longer likely to be a part of any initiative.
The reality (to the best of my knowledge) is something more like this.
1. Amal travelled to Athens with Geoffrey Robertson and Professor Norman Palmer and was very much the junior one of the three there. To describe it as Amal’s law firm is laughable. However the papers have a love of celebrity stories, so I doubt I can stop them from framing the story in this way. In some ways, I don’t have such an issue with it, if it gets readers who might otherwise have been uninterested to find out more about the Parthenon Marbles – although they won;t learn a great deal from this particular article.
2. The team of lawyers were in Athens to advise the government about the legal options available to them with regard to securing the return of the Marbles. To the best of my knowledge, they were not signed up to anything and if they received any money, it was likely to be merely their out of pocket expenses for travel, accommodation etc while they were there. To suggest that a government would sign any sort of contract on a first meeting over a subject as complex as the Parthenon Sculptures reunification is ridiculously naive. In the previous coalition, various ministers were trained lawyers and would have wanted to give the matter full consideration & have it assessed by their own in-house legal advisors and others before signing on the dotted line.
3. Much is made of the cost, but as highlighted above, as yet, there is no clear cost associated with this, as nothing has been agreed. Furthermore, the sort of cost talked about for a legal case, while a massive amount to the average man in the street, is tiny for governments that are regularly moving about far larger amounts on a daily basis. That is not to say that it is not an issue – but if there was a motivation to proceed, then the cost impact would be unlikely to be the major consideration. Indeed, if it was a major issue for the government and they were willing to swallow their pride, I am aware of various wealthy Greek foundations and individuals around the world, which would be happy to assist in funding such an initiative.
All in all, its a bit of a non-story. The new government is renewing contracts, the new culture minister is asked about the marbles & says he’s reviewing the strategy (as any new government would). That is all that has happened.
Personally, I hope that the government continues along the lines of the previous coalition with regard to the Marbles. I know that in Greek politics, there is often a tendency to rip up everything that the previous government did and head in the opposite direction, but I personally believe that great steps forward were made in the last few years – far more than was managed by any previous governments. Not only was an advisory team specifically focused on the Marbles set up, but on their advice, an invitation to mediation via UNESCO was issued and more recently, discussions have been made about other possible legal approaches. Finally the country has moved from talking about the issue to acting on it, and it would be a great shame to lose this momentum. For a relatively small outlay (for a nation, even an impoverished one), something great could eventually be achieved – something that could give the average Greek citizen a sense of achievement and success, a reason to be proud in their country once more.
David Hill, Amal Clooney & Geoffrey Robertson in Athens
Curtains for the new Mrs Clooney? Amal’s law firm could be ditched as advisor on Elgin Marbles as Greece’s new left-wing government reviews contracts
By Flora Drury For Mailonline
Published: 12:10, 31 January 2015 | Updated: 13:37, 31 January 2015
Amal Clooney could find herself with one less high profile case to fight after Greece’s new culture minister revealed they were reconsidering how to win back the Elgin Marbles.
Aristides Baltas revealed they were looking at the ‘strategy’ behind his country’s attempts to get the 5th century BC statues returned – and were willing to ‘tweak’ it if necessary.
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