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World heritage, cultural property, the Parthenon & the Elgin marbles – followup to Athens conference

A followup to the conference on the return of and protection of cultural property [1], held in Athens in December. Interestingly, the final paragraph suggests that new initiatives for the return of the Parthenon Marbles are finally being explored by the Greek government.

SAE [2]

“World Cultural Heritage, the Parthenon and its Marbles are not tradable”
Athens, 13.12.2010

The institutional framework for cultural heritage, in terms of international ethics, protection, legal practice, diplomatic approach, international collaboration efforts and other relevant issues, the main focus being on the issue of the Parthenon Marbles, were discussed during the international conference organized on Friday at the New Acropolis Museum by the Foundation for International Legal Studies – I. Krispis, the Kapodistrian University of Athens, the Acropolis Museum and the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE).
“The return of all those masterpieces that constitute our cultural heritage is now more imperative than ever” stressed in his message Minister of the State, Harris Pamboukis, indicating that “the course towards reclaiming and diplomatic pressure is difficult and time consuming, however our cultural treasures have a new modern home, the New Acropolis Museum, located in their place of origin. The argument is irrefutable”.

The message of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Demetris Dollis, responsible for Greeks Abroad was also on the same wavelength, who is currently on an official visit in Australia.

“With the New Acropolis Museum, a gem and ray of hope for Greece which is currently in adversity, yet remains determined for this reason, the world demand for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum is enhanced, as we all acknowledge, with a new and distinct form of dynamics.

As it had been correctly stated, the reunification of the Memorial of Democracy is not a national, but global request”, stresses Mr. Dollis in his message and concludes: “Recognition and prevalence of reason in contemporary international relations is a substantial cultural demand, something which should form the permanent objective of Greek cultural diplomacy”.

Announcing the opening of the conference’s proceedings, the President of the Museum, Professor Demetris Pantermalis, stressed the importance of the conference with the participation of distinguished legal practitioners and scientists from Greece and abroad, among them being Mr. George Bizos from South Africa.

“We are not merely talking about a return, but a unification of the Marbles. It is a tragic event for us archaeologists to join a 5th century BC marble with a plaster replica. Sculptures have the right to remain intact and that is what I said to representatives of the British Museum during a recent UNESCO work meeting”, stated Mr. Pantermalis, noting that the New Museum has the best possible conditions, which could ever be provided.

In response to a question by director Nikos Koundouros, if the rumors on renting the Marbles from the British Museum stand, Mr. Pantermalis was absolute: “Nobody has the right to own world cultural treasures and therefore I could not discuss the Marbles’ property issues with anyone. World cultural heritage, the Parthenon and its Marbles are not tradable”, stressed Mr. Pantermalis among other things.

Greetings were also addressed by the representative of the Archbishop of Athens, Ieronymos, the Rector of the Kapodistrian University, as well as the President of SAE, Stefanos Tamvakis, who referred to the role of the Greek Diaspora and SAE, more specifically, on the campaign to return the Parthenon Marbles to their birthplace.

“The World Council of Hellenes Abroad, as the voice of the organized Diaspora, has prioritized this issue highly on its agenda. That is why we supported with great pleasure and pride, the initiative of our Youth Networks, worldwide, to launch their campaign for the collection of signatures through an online petition created for this purpose”, stated Mr. Tamvakis. “The campaign was launched in December 2009, from here, the New Acropolis Museum, aiming towards the collection of thousands of signatures and to proceed to take the next steps, having the London Olympics of 2012 as an initial target date”.

Lastly, the President and Vice President of the Foundation for International Legal Studies, Dr. Anastasia Samara – Krispi and Ilias Krispis, mentioned in their greeting address, the multidimensional and timeless topic of the Conference, which is more imperative than ever, as they stated.

More specifically, Mrs. Krispi, noted that for many years, the issue for the Return of the Marbles was not sufficiently handled by the Greek state, currently, she stated, arrangements are being sought, mainly through international agreements, international partnerships among organizations, through the so-called diplomatic channels.

Source: ANA – MPA