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UNESCO mediation rejection – what next

Following the rejection of mediation [1] through UNESCO for the Parthenon Marbles issue, the question is, what happens next.

At present, Greece is awaiting the report produced by a team of lawyers [2] who visited Athens last year, and it is unknown how much weight they will be giving to the advice that it gives.

For some, UNESCO mediation was seen as a final step – the last possible diplomatic effort to secure the return of the sculptures. There are still glimmers of hope though. Neil MacGregor has now announced he is leaving the British Museum [3], and there is also a British General Election coming up (I will write more on this in another post), so by the end of this year, the British side of the negotiating team may be very different to the one that we have now.

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum [4]

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum

Ethnos [5]

The negativism is striking …
30 March 2015

Irina Bokova was to have arranged for mediation between Greece and Great Britain for the Parthenon sculptures, but the British Museum did not inform her directly, but through the Deputy Director of UNESCO.

Greece had addressed the Director General personally, seeking her active participation, prior to placing the issue of mediation before the international organisation, which she accepted. But it seems that the British Museum did not … agree.

Also, according to our reliable sources, although the permanent representative of Greece to UNESCO, Katerina Daskalaki, should have been informed as required by protocol, this never happened. In essence, although the Trustees gave an assurance that they had communicated the letter to the ministers, they sent an email to the Deputy Director of UNESCO and posted the letter from the head of the trustees, Sir Richard Lambert, on the Museum website. That is, while playing diplomacy and protocols on their fingertips, they chose to do the minimum …

The Policy

Of course, on the other hand, the refusal of the British Museum for mediation by UNESCO, and its general negative attitude, show that our policy towards the Parthenon Marbles and their return may need review. Because, UNESCO cannot take action, nor is it possible to resort to it solely. Thus, although the deputy minister of Culture, Nikos Xydakis, announced a new appeal to Ms. Bokova, it is not known what that will achieve.

Surely there should be an entire review of our strategy in a new light. For us to examine in detail whether, and what, helps or does not help our embargo against the British Museum and our actions, and whether we need to make any adjustments. Also, how do we deal with the British side? As a “partner” with whom we can talk or as the enemy? And even at times when the other side campaigns with our sculptures by sending fragments to capital cities and saying, in their own way, that if the Greeks take them, they will never send them back. Finally, what about Amal Clooney and the law firm?

Mr. Xidakis invites “Great Britain to reconsider its stance. Greece remains open to any positive gestureā€ he stresses, though “struck by the negativism and lack of proper respect to the good offices of mediators. It also gives the impression of continuously downgrading a strictly bilateral national issue to an issue just between museums.”

It seems that the personnel involved with this issue will soon change. Ambassador George Veis is about to go to Paris, as the permanent representative. Also, according to reports, although the general director of antiquities, Elena Korka, is familiar with the matter, incoming general secretary of culture, Maria Vlazaki, will assume responsibility.