ATHENS – The British Museum’s insistence the stolen Parthenon Marbles being displayed there for some 200 years no longer belong to Greece didn’t sit well with Culture Minister Lina Mendoni who said the fight for their return will never end.
In an interview with Ta Nea, Mendoni accused the British Museum of being “governed by outdated, colonialist views” for refusing to return the treasures stolen by diplomat Lord Elgin when Greece was being occupied by the Ottoman Empire.
She had also spoken about the seemingly lost cause on the 11th anniversary of the state-of-the-art Acropolis Museum, which was built to show off the marbles on a glass top floor with a direct view of the Parthenon on the Acropolis above and nearby.
The British Museum had said for generations Greece had no place to display the Parthenon Marbles, not mentioning that perhaps they could be put back on the Parthenon itself as it has been under decades of occasional restoration.
“Since September 2003 when construction work began on the Acropolis Museum, Greece has systematically demanded the return of the sculptures on display in the British Museum because they are the product of theft,” Mendoni said.
“The current Greek government – like any Greek government – is not going to stop claiming the stolen sculptures which the British Museum, contrary to any moral principle, continues to hold illegally,” she added.
But she wouldn’t commit to again challenging legally as a former New Democracy government under then-premier Antonis Samaras did, hiring noted lawyer Amal Clooney, wife of actor George Clooney who also champions their return.
The former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA gave up that fighting, saying the marbles didn’t belong to Greece but to the world and successive Greek governments have tried using diplomacy that has always failed.
Greece now has a rare moment to force the return as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who earlier asked only for the marbles to be loaned as part of 2021 celebrations marking 200 years of freedom since breaking away from Turkish rule, could veto European Union talks with the United Kingdom, which is leaving the bloc, but he hasn’t.