British Columnist Says Brexit Should Include Parthenon Marbles Return

The Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum. Photo: by Yair Haklai, via Wikimedia Commons

A Guardian newspaper columnist said Britain should return the stolen Parthenon Marbles to Greece as part of the Brexit deal as it prepares to leave the European Union.

“Putting the return of Lord Elgin’s stolen marbles on the Brexit negotiating table would lead both to a boon for Britain and a triumph for European enhancement of its heritage,” Geoffrey Robertson wrote.

The English name the marbles after the diplomat who stole them more than 200 years ago while serving in Greece during the reign of the Ottoman Empire of the Turks.

Robertson said the EU treaty itself places a duty on both sides of the Brexit negotiations to “to ensure that Europe’s cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced.”

The British Museum has repeatedly rejected calls to return the sculptures, saying that they were acquired by Scottish diplomat Lord Elgin through a legitimate contract with the Ottoman Empire although they belonged to Greece and not the Turks and were stolen goods.

Greece has tried for years to get the back before the current ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition said they really don’t belong to Greece but to the world and as the government said it wouldn’t sue to get them back.

In March, Greece’s Culture Ministry denied a report in a British newspaper it had called for return of the stolen Parthenon Marbles.

The Independent said that the ministry would press for a diplomatic solution to get the marbles stolen from the Acropolis site more than 200 years ago back from the British Museum.
The newspaper had said the ministry would appeal for the return as a symbolic gesture against anti-democratic forces that seek “the dissolution of Europe.”

In a statement, the ministry said that it is indeed considering the prospect of cooperation with the British Museum, but said report was wrong.

“Until now, the political leadership of the ministry has not made any official or unofficial proposal on this procedure (mentioned in the paper,)” the statement read, adding that there has been a “systematic effort to restart the dialogue to reunite the sculptures with a new strategy that is not premised on a legal pursuit.”

The newspaper said though that the government would offer to lend the British Museum other treasures if the marbles were return although there was no guarantee those wouldn’t be kept as well.

The paper quoted Culture Minister Lydia Koniordou as saying that the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles would “highlight the fight against the forces that undermine the values and foundations of the European case against those seeking the dissolution of Europe.” The Parthenon monument, she said, represents a symbol of Western civilization.

The article also carried quotes by professor Louis Godart, Chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures (IARPS), who denied speaking to the paper, saying that the reporter made up his quotes.