Showing 6 results for the tag: SYRIZA.

May 16, 2015

Greece drops plans for legal action over Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 9:08 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

I was very surprised to hear this story, particularly with the timing of it coming only a day after much of the content of the press summary of the legal report was published.

My first issue is that the actual report has not yet been delivered to the Greek Government. It was commissioned by the previous ND / PASOK coalition government when Geoffrey Robertson, Norman Palmer and Amal Clooney visited Athens last year. Originally the report was due to be delivered in late April, but for various reasons has been delayed until the end of this month. We know from previous new stories about the way that this exercise has been funded, that the cost of researching and producing this report was not an insignificant amount.

So, apart from the lawyers working on the report, my understanding is that nobody has yet seen the actual final report – not the Greek Government, not the press and definitely not the plethora of armchair legal experts who are commenting on the press reports.

Even once the Greek Government has seen the report, something of this scale and importance would generally require extensive consideration and review, to understand the full impact of what was being proposed, to let the government’s own legal team assess its veracity etc. Once that had happened, further discussion would be required, to allow the government to weigh up the possible options available to them and decide how they wanted to proceed. None of this appears to have happened, and I don’t see how it could have, as nobody has yet seen the report. As such, it is hard to believe that the content of the report is what led to this decision.

The report on the legal options for the Parthenon Marbles, as I mentioned earlier was commissioned by the previous government, and the current government have not to my knowledge actually met with the lawyers who are working on it. Based on this information alone, any rejection seems to be more of a reaction to the fact that they are wanting to do different to those who came before them, rather than any other reason.

The Greek Government says that they want to use politics and diplomacy to resolve the issue. This is not a new approach however – if anything it is reverting to what has been tried in the past, as any consideration of other options by Greece has only happened in the last few years.

The diplomatic approach has been tried since the mid 1980s – and to an outside observer, any success has been very limited. The Parthenon Sculptures still do not appear any closer to returning than they were fifteen years ago. If anything, the British Museum has become more trenchant in their opposition during this time, first by dreaming up new arguments such as that of the Universal Museum and more recently loaning one of the pediment sculptures to Russia, while continuing to snub Greek loan requests.

The most recent initiative by Greece, mediation of the issue via UNESCO, which many had high hopes for, was rejected by both the British Government and the British Museum after an inordinately long period of consideration.

All the above actions took place during a period when the government in the UK (Labour – 1997-2010) although oficially rejecting return, had many members who were enthusiastic supporters of the restitution of the sculptures. During the government of the last five years (Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition – 2010-2015), although the major partner in the coalition was less supportive of the issue, the Liberal Democrat leader who was also Deputy Prime Minister had previously expressed strong support for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles in Athens.

This has now changed. The new Conservative government that entered won the General Election earlier this month, are entirely unreceptive to any hint of the the sculptures returning. Sure, there are a few enlightened individuals within the party – but they stand out like beacons of hope against the backdrop of so many others who are still in denial that the days of empire are over. Both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Culture have, in the last few years, stated publicly their opposition to returning the sculptures.

One must also bear in mind one of the themes of the precis report presented to the press – the idea that action must be taken now, otherwise the opportunity might evaporate. Its now or never.

All the above points make me feel that any rejection of the report so rapidly suggests that full consideration has not really been given to the issue. As such, I hope that this turns out to be some sort of misunderstanding on the part of the Greek Government and that whatever they decide, they will first think through their options carefully – and review the actions already taken in the campaign since the mid 1980s. I will happily support them in any initiatives that they believe will get the sculptures back to Athens, but a coherent plan is needed. The British Museum’s loan to Russia could well be a sign that they were starting to feel the pressure and wanted to try and assert their own dominant position as clearly as possible – backing off now, just when they were starting to feel uncomfortable will achieve nothing.

Amal Clooney nee Alamudin is shown around the New Acropolis Museum by Professor Pandermalis

Amal Clooney nee Alamudin is shown around the New Acropolis Museum by Professor Pandermalis

From:
Guardian

Greece drops option of legal action in British Museum Parthenon marbles row
Helena Smith in Athens
Wednesday 13 May 2015 17.13 BST

Cultural minister makes revelation despite dossier from human rights lawyers exhorting the Greek government to pursue legal channels immediately

Greece has ruled out taking legal action in its battle to reclaim the Parthenon marbles from Britain. The unexpected move abruptly ends the legal battle in one of the world’s most bitter cultural disputes.
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February 13, 2015

Greek government to pursue new Parthenon Marbles strategy?

Posted at 2:00 pm in Elgin Marbles

I’m struggling to work out if there is any actual new information that this story is based on or not. The clarifications seem to be more a matter of re-hashing what I wrote a few weeks ago. In essence, its correcting some incorrect statements from the earlier article, which in reality told little more than “new government to re-look at existing contracts”.

In time we will no doubt find out more about the new government’s strategy for dealing with the Marbles, but at present, we do not yet know a great deal.

David Hill, Amal Clooney & Geoffrey Robertson in Athens

David Hill, Amal Clooney & Geoffrey Robertson in Athens

From:
Greek Reporter

Greece to Follow Different Strategy on Parthenon Marbles Repatriation
by Philip Chrysopoulos – Feb 13, 2015

The new Greek government is considering a different strategy for claiming the Parthenon sculptures from the British Museum and will likely stop cooperating with Amal Alamuddin-Clooney and her law firm.

The new Minister of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs Aristides Baltas told foreign reporters that Greece is seeking a new strategy to bring back the sculptures. He was quoted by The Times as saying, “Our campaign will continue, but the strategy and how we go about that may be tweaked, if required. We’ll be looking over these details in the coming weeks and if we see a need to alter them, we will.”
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February 1, 2015

Why recent articles about Amal & the Marbles are misleading

Posted at 8:56 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

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

David Hill, Amal Clooney & Geoffrey Robertson in Athens

From:
Daily Mail

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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January 27, 2015

New Greek government & new Culture Minister, Nikos Xydakis

Posted at 2:22 pm in Elgin Marbles

Over the years since I started taking an interest in the Parthenon Marbles, while Greek governments have come and gone, the Culture Ministry (under a variety of name changes) has changed leadership more than most departments. Ministers have come and gone, although only a few have made a real impact, perhaps for me, the most notable being Venizelos (who spearheaded campaigning in London in the lead up to the 2004 Olympics) and Samaras (who oversaw the opening of the New Acropolis Museum, although its construction started well before that). Both of these understood that it was an international issue & needed to be dealt with on an international level, if there was to be any traction.

Following Sunday’s poll, a coalition dominated by Syriza is now leading Greece. Its charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras hass already made his views on the Parthenon Marbles known a few weeks ago.

Today, the re-organisation of various government departments was announced, along with the naming of the new Culture Minister – Nikos Xydakis, who is already relatively well known to many in Greece as a political commentator in Kathimerini.

It will be interesting to see in the coming weeks how he feels that the Parthenon Marbles issue should be handled by Greece.

Greek culture minister Nikos Xydakis

Greek culture minister Nikos Xydakis

January 14, 2015

The Parthenon Marbles – transported or stolen?

Posted at 2:05 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Greece’s Education Ministry plans to stop using an art history book, which describes the Parthenon Marbles as having been transported to England, rather than giving more detail of how Lord Elgin removed them from the country, in circumstances of questionable legality, which are still disputed today.

It appears that in large part, the reason for making this decision now, is due to the fact that there is an upcoming general election in the country, and that the wording in this book was recently drawn to public attention by a politician from the main opposition party.

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

From:
Kathimerini (English Edition)

Wednesday Jan 14, 2015
Education Ministry to scrap schoolbook with ‘monstrous’ Marbles reference

Greece’s Education Ministry plans to scrap an art history schoolbook which was recently criticized of misrepresenting the history of the the 5th-century B.C. Parthenon Marbles, now housed in the British Museum.

Education Minister Andreas Loverdos said the book with the “monstrous reference” would no longer be used at schools as of next year, while teachers across the country had received instructions on how to correctly present the subject.
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January 8, 2015

SYRIZA’s Alexis Tsipras, Greece and the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 8:06 pm in Elgin Marbles

Following the failure of the Greek parliament to elect a new president on 29 December 2014, Greece goes to the polls once more for an early general election on 25th January 2015. All opinion polls that I have seen since June last year indicate that SYRIZA are likely to get the majority vote, although not necessarily an overall majority (meaning that the eventual parliament formed may well be a coalition, which might not necessarily include them). This means that no matter what my personal view of their party may be, they may well end up being the ones setting Greece’s international agenda at some point soon. SYRIZA have existed as an alliance of various smaller parties since 2004, but only reformed as a proper political party in 2012. As such, they have never been in power before and relatively little is known about their policies, other than those relating to the terms of Greece’s bailout by the EU & others.

Alexis Tsipras, the leader of SYRIZA was interviewed by Channel 4 news, and made clear that he wants the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. This is not entirely surprising, as they are broadly speaking a party who ride on a wave of nationalist sentiments. One hopes though, that they will have the sense to deal with the issue sensibly on an international level, rather the campaign becoming part of their anti-establishment tub-thumping, which is unlikely to win the campaign many converts outside of Greece.

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras

From:
Channel 4 News

Wednesday 07 Jan 2015
Alexis Tsipras: we want debt relief and the Elgin Marbles

Alexis Tsipras arrives late: he’s spent the morning sorting out wrangles over Syriza’s candidate list for this month’s election. As the polls currently predict he’s likely to win, this is no longer a side issue. If Syriza becomes the first far left government in modern Europe, those MPs will be asked to pull the trigger on a showdown with Europe that could change the economics of the whole eurozone.

Tsipras has pledged to end the austerity programme imposed by the troika – and at the same time negotiate the write-off of 50 per cent of Greek debt. So the obvious question is: what does he do if they say no?
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