Greek President Makes Push for Parthenon Marbles Return

FILE - The President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos at the Fourth Delphi Economic Forum, February 28, 2019. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yiannis Panagopoulos)

ATHENS – Despite repeated refusals by the British Museum which houses some of the treasured Parthenon Marbles stolen two centuries ago, Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos made a new call for their return in a meeting with key advocates.

With the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA unwilling to go to court to get back the Marbles, Pavlopoulos has picked up the baton in repeating they are the property of Greece, while the British Museum claims it’s the legal owner of the stolen goods.

Pavlopoulos met with the President of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights advocacy group, Kerry Kennedy, and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Marianna Vardinoyannis, from a noted Greek shipping magnate family.

Thanking Kennedy for her support, Pavlopoulos said she is defending “a just cause that concerns not just Greece but our very culture, as the Parthenon is widely acknowledged as the cradle of our western civilization.”

“This is the reason why it is a great cause of sorrow – and even frustration – that the authorities in Great Britain insist on covering up the crime of theft committed by Elgin and to tamper with historic truth, without the required respect for our civilization and its symbols,” Pavlopoulos was quoted by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA) as saying.

Referring to the Scottish diplomat who removed the marbles with the permission of the occupying Ottoman Empire, he said that, “It is easy to blame Lord Elgin but he has been gone for awhile. This is an ongoing and perpetual crime, which is being perpetuated by the British government.”

He added that, “It is hard for the specific democracy to continue to claim it is liberal while it continues to commit and perpetuate such a crime against Greece,” said Kennedy.

Vardinoyannis noted that Kennedy, as have other celebrities such as George Clooney, had volunteered to talk about the return of the Marbles on her own initiative and to defend Greece’s positions for their return during her travels around the world.

In January, the Acropolis Museum’s Director, Dimitrios Pandermalis, told German public radio that The British Museum is not the legal owner of the stolen Parthenon Marbles – Greece is

He said the marbles taken off the frieze and later sold to the British Museum must be returned to their real home permanently and not just loaned.

“The full return of the Parthenon Marbles is the only solution. Everything that is inextricably linked to the monument must be reunited,” he was said to have told Deutschlandfunk, saying the sculptures in London are a critical part of the monument.

He also said his museum would  offer something to the British Museum in exchange for the marbles’ return, without going into details.

Pantermalis was responding to Hartwig Fischer, the British Museum Director, who said his museum is the rightful owner of the stolen property and said they would never be returned to Greece, nor loaned temporarily without a declaration that the British Museum owns them outright.

“The Trustees of the British Museum feel the obligation to preserve the collection in its entirety, so that things that are part of this collection remain part of this collection,” he was quoted as telling Greek daily Ta Nea.

Asked if that is the reason why the Museum will not permanently return the Sculptures, he replied: “Yes,” without explaining why having part of a collection is  whole collection.

In another part of the same interview he said they are “in the fiduciary ownership of the Trustees of the Museum.”

Fischer also said that the removal of the marbles from Greece in the 19th century could be seen as “a creative act,” albeit stolen.