Washington, DC.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA, Reuters)
Now that times have changed and Britain is leaving the European Union, it’s time to reconsider Greece’s claim for the return of the Parthenon sculptures, says an opinion article in Washington Post published this weekend.
Despite the differing opinions today, the author notes (” nobleman saved them 200-odd years ago if you ask the British, and he stole them if you ask the Greeks”), the case is stronger than ever that they should return to Athens, the cradle of Western culture.
When Thomas Bruce, Earl of Elgin and British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, asked permission of the sultan to “take away some pieces of stone with old inscriptions and figures,” the earl “naturally took this as license to remove some 17 statues from the pediments, 15 metopes (carved panels) and 247 feet of the frieze from the Parthenon and bring them back home to merry old England,” says the article.
The old argument that the move was an act of preserving the monuments that theoretically could not be appreciated by the locals needed to be revisited, as “Greece is today revered as the cradle of Western culture,” making the Greeks the natural choice of housing the sculptures.
Supporting her argument, the author points out that “the tale Lord Elgin and his countrymen have written themselves into is a tale of sun-never-setting imperialism, where London is the Earth’s center, has changed” and change is acceptable.
Now that Brexit is a reality, “That leaves a question,” the author continues. “Maybe the marbles are an ode to connectedness between the old Mediterranean world and the new and wider one today. Maybe they do belong to all of us. Why, then, should their keeper be the very country that insists on belonging only to itself?”
ON EU –UK NEGOTIATIONS
The British Museum in London has refused to return the Parthenon Marbles, 2,500-year-old sculptures that British diplomat Lord Elgin removed from Athens in the early 19th century when Greece was under Ottoman Turkish rule.
A draft of the 27 EU nations’ position on negotiations with Britain on their future relationship, which was seen by Reuters on Tuesday, seeks the “return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origin”.
The document did not specify any cultural objects.
However, an EU diplomat said the line was added at the request of Greece, with support from Italy.
Greece’s culture minister said last month that Athens would step up its campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from London and expected to win more support from European peers as Brexit diminishes Britain’s influence.
The British Museum says the marbles, which are roughly half of a 160-metre frieze that adorned the fifth century BC Parthenon temple, were acquired by Elgin under a legal contract with the Ottoman empire. Greece says they were stolen.
A British government spokeswoman, commenting on the draft EU document, said the UK’s position on the sculptures remained that they are “the legal responsibility of the British Museum”.
“That is not up for discussion as part of our trade negotiations,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson led the UK out of the European Union on Jan. 31, more than three years after Britons voted in a referendum to leave.
Rhetoric between London and Brussels over the terms of their future relationship has grown sharper this month ahead of negotiations that are due to start in early March.
An EU source, who declined to be named because discussions on the negotiating mandate are confidential, said the reference to stolen artefacts was included in an earlier draft of the document last week.
The source said the reference also had support from Cyprus and Spain and that, Greece’s concerns about the marbles aside, EU countries were more broadly concerned about the illegal trade of artifacts through London auction houses.