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An international reunification committee

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture have issued a press release, highlighting key points from the meeting in Athens [1] of representatives from twelve national committees for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.

Hellenic Ministry of Culture [2]

Athens, 25.11.2005

The Deputy Minister of Culture Mr. Petros Tatoulis, with the Presidents and the authorized members of the Committees for the Return of the Parthenon Marbles, today, on Friday 25th November, had a meeting with the President of the Democracy Mr. Karolos Papoulias at the Presidential Residence, as well as with the Prime Minister and Minister of Culture Mr. Kostas Karamanlis at the Maximou Residence.

Afterwards, they visited the Acropolis, where they were guided by the competent Director, Mrs. Alkistis Choremi, and were informed on the progress of the conservation and restoration works of the Acropolis by the Director of the Service for the Restoration of the Acropolis Monuments Mrs. Maria Ioannidou. The program continued with the visit to the place of the construction of the New Acropolis Museum, where they were informed by the President of the Organization for the Construction of the New Acropolis Museum Mr. Dimitrios Pandermalis, who later guided them to the exhibition “Creating the exhibitional style of the New Acropolis Museum”, which has been running since August 2004, in the Weiler building.

Afterwards, a press interview took place during which the Deputy Minister Mr. Petros Tatoulis, the President of the British Committee Mr. Anthony Snodgrass, Honorary Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge University, Mr. David Hill, businessman, member of the Australian Committee and Mrs.Birgit Wiger-Angner spoke. Mr. Tatoulis announced that Mrs. Wiger-Angner donated a part of the Erechtheum epicranitis to the New Acropolis Museum and thanked her warmly for her decision. As the Deputy Minister said the ancient fragment will return to our country in October 2006.

Welcoming the Presidents and the members of the Committees, who for the first time all together visited our country, the Deputy Minister of Culture referred to their contribution, emphasizing that “it is our great pleasure and honour that you are here, since it is grace to your help that the request and the will of our country concerning the return of the Parthenon Marbles has been made known to the whole world.”. Mr. Tatoulis also made reference to Melina Mercouri “because – as he said – we must not forget all those who with their brave political decisions served high goals”.

Mr. Tatoulis, referring to what the Prime Minister and Minister of Culture Mr. Kostas Karamanlis said during his meeting with the Presidents and the authorized members of the Committees, emphasized that “our request is not a request of narrow national boundaries, because the Parthenon and the Acropolis monuments belong to the world cultural heritage. Greek culture is not restricted to narrow conceptions of ownership, on the contrary it belongs to the world society, it belongs to all citizens. I consider that – he went on – the presence and the exchange of views with the Committees will essentially strengthen this effort. They will have greater possibilities and will form new priorities in regard to the effort made by our country”.

Mr Snodgrass, in his turn, thanked Mr. Tatoulis for the initiative of this meeting. As he said, many members are old friends but there are also quite a few people we meet for the first time, such as the representatives of Italy, Cyprus, Spain, Germany and Serbia-Montenegro.

Mr. Snodgrass also pointed out that “the meeting we had with the Prime Minister confirmed in the best possible way the will to continue establishing contacts between the Greek and British governments at a more intensive pace, parallel to contacts in the field of Museums”.

He also announced that the representatives of the Committees came to the conclusion that they agree to strengthen contacts among themselves and for that purpose they will proceed in founding a World Organization for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, with first chairperson Mr. David Hill.

Mr. Snodgrass also added that attention must be focused not only on the British government but also toward the international organisations, such as UNESCO and the European Union.

Mr. Tatoulis referred to the recent (beginning of 2005) recommendation of UNESCO for the continuation under its auspices of the discussions concerning the issue of the return of the Marbles within 2006.

The Deputy Minister also mentioned that before the end of 2006 the New Acropolis Museum will be ready, so that “the realization of this work weakens to a large extent the argumentation of the British Museum”. Referring to the purpose of founding a World Organization he said that “it will co-ordinate the efforts of all the Committees and shall move in a positive direction. We believe that the conditions which will be created in the future will be better and they will strengthen our efforts”.

Mr. David Hill thanked the Deputy Minister “for his excellent initiative thanks to which the Presidents and the authorized members of the Committees met for the first time”. As he said “the Committees are asking for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to the New Acropolis Museum in Athens and that negotiations between the Greek and the British sides on a governmental basis continue”.

“We will all work together hard and each one separately – he went on – in order to press for return and to create a climate of support in the public opinion and in the academic world. We were encouraged by the fact that the Greek government continues contacts on the subject. We agree with the way you have conducted this effort”.

Mrs. Birgit Wiger-Angner greeted the meeting saying that “I returned the small piece from the Acropolis. I wish the British government also returns to Athens all that it has removed”.

To the question of a reporter relative to the opinion poll in Great Britain, which shows that the overwhelming majority of the British people are in favour of the return of the Marbles and as to whether the British establishment in the cultural world has finally changed its opinion, Mr. Snodgrass answered: “the British culture establishment has clearly changed. We, the British Committee, have decided to change our tactics. From a juxtaposition we want to move to the tactics of “surrounding” the British Museum by gathering close to us all its natural allies or its ex-allies or even the Association of British Museums with its institutional organs.

To another question concerning the fact as to whether a reason for which the British deny the return of the Marbles is because, as they invoke, something like that would open the floodgates for other requests as well, Mr. Snodgrass said that “ this can be avoided by finding a solution, which will exclusively concern the Marbles” while he mentioned that in the past many relevant proposal-solutions have been submitted. “There is a way – he went on – to negotiate the subject as long as the the other side wishes to”.

Mr. David Hill agreed with all that Mr. Snodgrass said and added that “it is not fair, just because someone is afraid of the creation of a precedent, to continue accepting an injustice”.

He went on to remind that in 2000 a parliamentary Committee of the House of Commons studied the issue of the Marbles and rejected the above mentioned British argument, i.e., that with their return, the floodgates would be opened, which could happen with other exhibits as well.