May 5, 2010
Despite promises when they were in opposition, since 1997, the UK’s Labour government has failed to make any meaningful headway towards resolving the situation of the Elgin Marbles in The British Museum. Previous statements from the Conservative party suggest that they would be even less in favour of any sort of reunification deal than Labour is.
Nick Clegg, unknown to many before he was elected as a UK MP in 2005, was previously an MEP & during this time he was involved in organising an exhibition at the European Parliament.
Since 2005, there have been 6 Early Day Motions relating to the Parthenon Marbles. Based on an analysis of the people who signed at least one of these EDMs, the breakdown of support (strong support – MPs only normally sign EDMs when they feel strongly about something) by party is:
Liberal Democrats – 33%
Labour – 15%
Conservative – 1%
The weak support from the Conservative party is particularly troubling – it is only 2 out of 193 MPs who have expressed any interest in the issue. These are: Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) & James Gray (North Wiltshire). There are other members of their party who I know are supportive of the issue, but clearly they are not interested enough in it to want to publicly express their support.
The SNP & Plaid Cymru are also supportive of return, but their results are less accurate as they have far fewer MPs:
SNP – 29%
Plaid Cymru – 100% (of 3MPs)
Other minor / regional parties that are supportive:
SDLP (Northern Ireland) – 67% (of 3 MPs)
Respect – 100% (of 1 MP)
Based on these results, a Liberal Democrat government in the UK currently seems by far the most positive option for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. (although the national parties listed above for Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland are also supportive of the issue).
Below is a press release from the Marbles in Exile conference (Note that The Parthenon 2004 campaign is what is now know as Marbles Reunited):
Nick Clegg may be the best possibility for the return of the Parthenon Marbles,
Embargo: 00.01, Wednesday 29th May, 2002
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT SHOWS SUPPORT FOR THE RETURN OF THE PARTHENON MARBLES – RICHARD ALLAN MP
Today, the (Parthenon) Marbles in Exile Conference and Exhibition will take place at the European Parliament. Nick Clegg MEP, chair of the Marbles in Exile Conference, says:
“I am thrilled by the positive response across Europe to this issue. After all, it’s about preserving our common European heritage. It is absurd that the Parthenon monument remains torn apart in this way. Imagine the outrage in Britain if Big Ben’s clock face was taken from Westminster and housed in the Prado museum in Spain.”
Richard Allan MP, initiator of Parthenon 2004, says
“The issue of cultural restitution is gaining more and more importance worldwide. The United Kingdom should not shy away from this debate, which is a natural consequence of increasing international cooperation.
“The Olympic Games will provide the perfect opportunity for the United Kingdom to make such a historic but also forward looking gesture. It will show Britain is firmly committed to being a part of Europe and appreciates the interests of her fellow European countries.”
Notes to Editors
Marbles in Exile, European Parliament
The Marbles in Exile conference will take place on May 29th from 5pm to 7pm. It will be hosted by five MEPs – Alexondras Alavanos MEP, GUEINGL, Dimitrios Tsatsos MEP, PES, Stavros Xarchakos MEP, EPP, Nicholas Clegg MEP, ELDR, Nuala Ahern MEP, GREENS. Mr Poettering MEP, leader of the EPP the largest political group in the European Parliament will participate in the conference.
This will be followed by the inauguration of the photographic exhibition on the Parthenon sculptures by the Greek Minister for Culture, Professor Evangelos Venizelos and the European Commissioner for Education and Culture, Viviane Reding. The President of the European Parliament, Mr Pat Cox, is expected to attend the exhibition, which is presented in collaboration with the Melina Mercouri Foundation and the Hellenic Ministry of Culture. It will highlight the parts of the monument which have been separated from the monument.
Speakers at the conference include Jules Dassin (President of the Melina Mercouri Foundation), Prof A Delivorlas (Director of Benaki Museum, Athens), Prof Dr WD Heilmeyer (Director of Archaelogical Museum of Berlin), Jack Lang (Former Minister of National Education, France), Prof St Miller (Dept of Classics – University of California, Berkeley), and Professor A. Snodgrass (Chairman of the British Committee for the
Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles)
Previously, the European Union has made two declarations supporting the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens, the first was signed by 252 MEPs and the second had 347 signatories.
Other European Campaigns
The Belgian Parthenon 2004 Campaign was launched on 13 March 2002 by two Belgian senators, Francois Roelands du Vivier and Paul Wille. They are currently collecting signatures of support for return of the Parthenon Marbles, so far this has numbered a thousand which includes 155 MPs (out of a possible total of 225). The signatories of support from all
over Belgium will be collected and given to the UK ambassador in Belgium after the summer.
The Cypriot Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles was launched on April 17th 2002 and in June 18-23 Nicosia will host the marbles in Exile exhibition.
Ministers of Culture and Ministers of Sports of the South Eastern European Countries participated in an informal meeting held in Thessaloniki on 22nd and 23rd February 2002. Here they pledged their support for the return of the Parthenon Marbles back to Athens by the time of the Olympics Games in 2004.
Other international campaigns
On March 21, 2002, the Quebec National Assembly became the first North American legislature to formally express support for the return of the Parthenon Marbles. The following motion received unanimous approval and was supported by the Minister of Culture, ” That this Assembly supports Greece’s request for the restitution of the Parthenon Marbles by expressing its deep wish that this common heritage of the humanity may be returned to its place of origin in time for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.”
There are active and prominent Committees for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles in Canada, Australia, the United States and New Zealand.
- Greek culture minister meets with British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles : March 23, 2012
- Nick Clegg & the Elgin Marbles : May 31, 2010
- Robin Cook expresses support for Parthenon Marbles reunification : December 6, 2003
- Round table discussion on: The reunification of the Parthenon Marbles – a European concern : October 11, 2013
- European deputies call for return of Elgin Marbles : February 21, 2004
- Greece’s deputy culture minister meets Finnish Committee for Restitution of Parthenon Marbles : April 12, 2012
- Marbles Reunited – a new exhibition about the Parthenon Marbles : January 2, 2003
- Greeks from Australia to ask British Museum to return Elgin Marbles : April 16, 2012