ATHENS — Greece is renewing a bid to seek the return of ancient sculptures removed from the Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens more than 200 years ago from the British Museum, a government official said Monday.
Giannis Oikonomou, a government spokesman, told reporters the issue would be raised at a scheduled meeting in London Tuesday between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The marbles — 17 figures and part of a frieze that decorated the 2,500-year-old Acropolis monument — were taken by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, in the early 19th century. Britain maintains that Elgin acquired the sculptures legally when Greece was ruled by the Ottomans.
“The obligation to return the Parthenon sculptures is entirely up to the government of the United Kingdom,” Oikonomou said. He added that the Greek request for government-to-government talks on the issue was backed by the United Nations’ cultural agency, UNESCO.
Greece has said the new Acropolis Museum that opened in 2009 would be used to display the sculptures if they were returned.
Mitsotakis meets Johnson tomorrow
The entire spectrum of Greek-UK bilateral relations, from the significant prospects for deepening economic and trade ties and increasing investments, to the great margins for upgrading tourist traffic in 2022, the return and reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures in Greece, the Cyprus issue and the resumption of Turkish aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean, are expected to be raised during a meeting between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, in London on Tuesday.
At a critical juncture, however, for the future of Euro-British relations, as a brawl between the European Commission and the British government on a number of outstanding issues (such as the Brexit trade agreements and the Northern Ireland Protocol) is underway, Mitsotakis is the first European leader to visit London this week.
Government sources place special emphasis on the economic-investment aspect of the Greek prime minister’s visit to the British capital. According to them, Mitsotakis is expected to underline during his contacts in London the important prospects for the further development of economic and trade relations. Talks will also focus on tourism, where there are high hopes regarding arrivals from the UK to Greece in 2022, provided, of course, that there are no restrictions due to Covid.
During his stay in London, Mitsotakis is expected to have meetings with important investors, representatives of the Confederation of British Industrialists, but also Greek community in London, which is very active in this area.