May 18, 2015

Greece drops plans for litigating over Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 1:05 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Further coverage of the announcement by the Greek Ministry of Culture that they are not planning on taking legal action over the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

One thing that strikes me with all this coverage, is that the papers are essentially making full page stories from the short piece in Το Βημα – There is no more detail contained in any other stories other than speculation & interviews with others outside the process, on what their opinions on it are.

A metope from the Parthenon Sculptures, currently in the British Museum

A metope from the Parthenon Sculptures, currently in the British Museum

To Bhma

Xydakis: “We will not claim the Parthenon marbles via the courts”
The Alternate Culture Minister explained that politics and diplomacy must be used instead
Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Alternate Minister of Culture Nikos Xydakis announced that the Greek government will not be seeking the return of the Parthenon marbles via the courts, but rather via political and diplomacy.

Mr. Xydakis, who spoke to Mega Channel on Wednesday morning, noted that Amal Clooney, of the Doughty Street Chambers legal firm, will be providing legal advice on the matter.

According to the Alternate Minister “you cannot go to court for every matter on the one hand and on the other, the outcome at the international courts is uncertain, things are never so easy”, however he underlined that “the climate is slowly changing”.

According to Mrs. Clooney’s findings, the Greek government should claim the return of the Parthenon marbles via the courts, as she believes that time is running against Athens, fearing that the opportunity may not arise in the future.

National Museum of Contemporary Art to operate by end of 2015

Meanwhile, Mr. Xydakis revealed that the National Museum of Contemporary Art, which will be open for special viewings as of the 18th of May for the international museum day, will be open to the general public by the end of the year.

BBC News

Elgin Marbles legal action ruled out by Greece
14 May 2015

Greece has ruled out taking legal action against the UK to reclaim the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum.

In an unexpected move, Greece’s culture minister said the country would pursue a “diplomatic and political” approach to retrieving the sculptures instead.

In doing so, the country has rejected the advice of barrister Amal Clooney, who had urged Greece to take Britain to the International Court of Justice.

Lord Elgin acquired the Marbles from the Ottoman Empire 200 years ago.

Greece insists the Parthenon Sculptures – as they are properly known – were taken illegally and has pursued a high-profile campaign in recent years for their return, latterly with the help of Mrs Clooney.

Mrs Clooney reportedly submitted a 150-page report to the Greek government this week urging it to formally request the repatriation of the marbles and take Britain to the International Court of Justice if it refused.

But Greece’s culture minister Nikos Xydakis told the country’s Mega TV: “One cannot go to court over whatever issue. Besides, in international courts the outcome is uncertain”.

He said he believed attitudes to the future of the Marbles were slowly changing and would favour Greece in a diplomatic approach.

The Marbles

  • Friezes and pediment figures which decorated the Parthenon temple in Athens, built 447-432 BC
  • Many were removed in 1801 by agents of the British diplomat Lord Elgin and in 1816 they were sold to the British Museum
  • Most of the surviving sculptures are roughly equally divided between London and Athens
  • The new Acropolis Museum opened in Athens in 2009. It is designed to display all of the surviving sculptures, in their original layout

For 30 years, Athens has been locked in a bitter dispute over its demand for the marbles to be returned.

The British Museum recently turned down a proposal by Unesco, the UN cultural agency, to mediate in the dispute. Mr Xydakis condemned the refusal, accusing Britain of “negativism” and a “lack of respect”.

In December, the museum loaned one of the marbles for the first time to Russia for a display in St Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum.

The Greek prime minister at the time, Antonis Samaras, said the museum’s decision was “an affront” to the Greek people.

Daily Telegraph

Greece snubs Amal Clooney over Elgin Marbles
By Nick Squires, Rome
11:40AM BST 14 May 2015

Greece has made an abrupt U-turn on the Elgin Marbles, taking the surprise decision not to pursue legal action against Britain for the return of the priceless friezes.

Athens has snubbed advice presented by a British legal team led by Amal Clooney and the Australian barrister Geoffrey Robertson, who had suggested that Greece should take the UK to court over the long-standing dispute.

There had been rumours for weeks in Athens that the new, hard-left Syriza government might drop the legal battle, in part over concerns of cost as the country buckles under unrelenting pressure from the EU and IMF over its massive debts.

“You can’t file a suit over any issue, and the outcome in international courts is never certain,” Nikos Xydakis, the Greek culture minister, told Mega TV.

“The road to reclaiming the return of the sculptures is diplomatic and political.”

Instead of trying to take the British to court, the Greeks would switch to “low-key, persistent work” to have the historic artifacts returned to Athens, he said.

The decision came just days after Mrs Clooney and her legal team from Doughty St Chambers in London presented a 150-page report to the Greeks, advising them to take legal action against the British Museum, where the friezes are kept, in the International Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The British team was commissioned to write the report last year by the previous government, which was unseated in January by Syriza.

Mrs Clooney visited Athens in October, where she was treated like a movie star as she toured the Acropolis Museum, a few hundred yards from the Parthenon, the ancient temple from where the friezes were taken by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century.

Supporters of Lord Elgin have argued that he was trying to safeguard the friezes, at a time when parts of the Parthenon were being carved off and burned to produce lime by ordinary Athenians.

The position of the British government has been set out in statements by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

“The Parthenon Sculptures are the legal property of the British Museum. They were not stolen. When Lord Elgin removed them from the Parthenon, he was acting under a licence issued by the Ottoman authorities – the legal government of the day.

“British law prevents national museums from breaking up and disposing of their collections. “Successive governments have believed that this is right in principle, and there are absolutely no plans to change the law in this respect.”


Syriza abandons legal fight for Elgin Marbles
By Felicity Capon 5/14/15 at 1:03 PM

The Greek government has rejected the advice of its high profile lawyers, among them Amal Clooney, and ruled out legal action to reclaim the contested Elgin Marbles from the British Museum in London.

It took the Greek culture minister just 48 hours to reject the legal advice contained in a 150-page report which was delivered to the Greek government, written by prominent lawyers Amal Clooney, Geoffrey Robertson and Norman Palmer. In their advice, they had warned that it was “now or never” for Greece to reclaim the classical sculptures, and urged the government to take Britain to the International Criminal Court or failing that, the European Court of Human Rights.

“The British adhere to international law,” advised Clooney who co-authored the report. “The Greek government has never taken advantage of this Achilles heel. You must take legal action now or you may lose the opportunity to do so due to future legal obstacles.”

But Greece’s culture minister has said the country will only pursue a “diplomatic and political” approach to retrieving the sculptures. Nikos Xydakis told the country’s Mega TV: “On the one hand, you can’t file a suit over any issue, and, on the other, the outcome in international courts is never certain.The way to winning back the Marbles is diplomatic and political”.

He insisted that “low-key persistent work” was instead required, as the international climate was gradually turning to Greece’s favour.

The Marbles were taken from Greece’s Parthenon by Lord Elgin 200 years ago. Greece insists the sculptures were taken illegally, although the British Museum claims that Lord Elgin received permission from Ottoman authorities at the time.

It seems unclear as to why the new Greek government rejected the advice so swiftly, although there is speculation in the media that with the ongoing fraught negotiations between Europe and Greece over its bailout, the new government who were only elected in January, has got cold feet.

It is thought that cost was a factor however, as according to the Times newspaper, a Greek shipping magnate had agreed to pay the barrister’s fees for the Greek government,

Rights groups who wish to see the 5th century marbles restored to Athens have been left dismayed by the decision.

“To reject it so rapidly comes across as a something of a knee jerk rejection of any efforts by the previous administration rather than something that has been fully considered,” Matthew Taylor, at the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, told the Guardian.

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  1. MarblesReunite said,

    05.18.15 at 1:24 pm

    RT @elginism: Blog post: Greece drops plans for litigating over Parthenon Marbles

  2. Anne Amblard said,

    05.18.15 at 1:26 pm

    Anne Amblard liked this on Facebook.

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