May 23, 2007

New South Wales Premier expresses support for the return of the Elgin Marbles

Posted at 12:47 pm in Elgin Marbles

During a visit to Australia by the Greek Prime Minister, the Permier of New South Wales has taken the opportunity to express his public support for the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

The West Australian

Domestic news
Australia, Greece to sign deal
22nd May 2007, 16:10 WST

Prime Minister John Howard and his Greek counterpart Kostas Karamanlis will finally sign a bilateral social security agreement in Canberra after two decades of talks.

Even though 700,000 Australians claim Greek heritage, Mr Karamanlis is the first Greek prime minister to visit Australia.

While most of his five-day trip is based on that 700,000 strong community, the social security agreement is a significant political breakthrough.

Following talks with Mr Karamanlis in Athens in 2005, Mr Howard said both countries had to resolve several differences on the reciprocal deal.

That done, Greek Australians who return to Greece will have better access to an Australian pension, and vice-versa.

“Let me express my deep satisfaction on the signing of the social security agreement,” Mr Karamanlis told guests at a state luncheon hosted by NSW premier Morris Iemma.

“It is a serious issue which involves thousands of people who have worked in both countries which will be finally resolved.”

While Greek-Australians have waited 20 years for the social security agreement, Mr Iemma joined Greece in its 200-year battle for the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

The ancient marble sculptures were taken from Athens in 1806 to Britain where they remain in the British Museum, despite years of intense campaigning from Greece and international supporters.

At the lunch to formally welcome Mr Karamanlis and Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis to Sydney, Mr Iemma endeared himself to his guests by calling on the British government to return the sculptures to Greece.

“Two weeks ago the authorities in Britain returned to Australia many relics and artefacts belonging to Australia’s indigenous people,” Mr Iemma said.

“It is time they did the same for Greece and return the Parthenon Marbles.

“I believe the Australian government must renew its efforts to persuade the British authorities to repatriate those unique treasures, and I pledge my government’s support and the efforts of all Australians who are friends of Greece.”

Another Australian champion of Greek antiquities, former prime minister Gough Whitlam, was also warmly received at the lunch in the premier’s Sydney offices.

Mr Iemma described Mr Whitlam as a “legend in the Australian Greek community” and “one of the architects of multicultural Australia”.

While Mr Iemma and Mr Karamanlis spoke of the strong historical bonds between Greece and Australia, the Greek prime minister said there was potential to enhance relations through trade and economics.

“We can also work together to significantly increase trade and investment opportunities between our two countries,” he said.

“Today, more than ever before, Greece is the ideal business partner for companies that wish to establish a presence in the developing market of south-east Europe.”

Mr Karamanlis’ visits to schools, aged care facilities and churches could be interpreted as long-term campaigning for the 2011 election in which Greek passport holders in Australia are expected to be able to vote.

Earlier on Tuesday, he met with the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Stylianos, at the Greek Orthodox church at Redfern in inner-Sydney and opened St Basil’s Aged Care facility in Miranda.

After his Canberra visit, Mr Karamanlis will fly to Adelaide, Melbourne and Darwin.

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