Cultural Postcards + [UK]

Southern Europe: Parthenon Sculptures debate heats up
Greece is prepared to wait for the outcome of talks between UNESCO and Britain over the return of the Elgin Marbles before launching legal action, its culture minister and lawyers including George Clooney's new bride said on Wednesday.

Parthenon Sculptures debate heats up
Human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney (C) and Greece's Minister of Culture 
and Sports Konstantinos Tasoulas (R) pose for photographers during a visit at the
 Parthenon hall inside the Acropolis museum in Athens October 15, 2014 
[Credit: Reuters]

Amal Alamuddin Clooney, one of a trio of high-profile lawyers drafted in to advise the Greek government over the artefacts that were taken to London two centuries ago, said the "injustice has persisted for too long".

"The Greek government has a just cause and it's time for the British Museum to recognise that and return them to Greece," she told a press conference.

UNESCO, the UN's cultural and scientific body, this month asked Britain and Greece to accept it acting as a mediator in the long-running case.

London has six months to give its response to the proposal.

The Parthenon marbles owned by the Greeks are exhibited alongside plaster copies of those that remain in London.

Clooney said: "One of the most beautiful piece of art in the world is still not available to anyone to see and appreciate as a whole.

"Nobody can celebrate the marbles united in the place where they come from."

Geoffrey Robertson, a veteran lawyer with a track record of fighting highly publicised cases in Britain, said mediation could be "very helpful".

If that did not work, "the next step would be to go on a international court", he told the press conference.

"We're not planning that at this point..., but there are legal opportunities and we should be aware that there are international courts."

The involvement of the new wife of one of Hollywood's biggest stars has inevitably sparked a media circus.

The 36-year-old has been mobbed by photographers at every step of her visit to Athens, including when she met Greece's culture minister, Konstantinos Tasoulas, for discussions.

The sculptures were taken from the Parthenon by British diplomat Lord Elgin in 1803 and shipped to Britain.

British magazine slams Greece, characterizes Parthenon sculptures as “a set of decorative stones”

Meanwhile, a provocative article published by British magazine “The Spectator” entitled “Tell you what Mrs Clooney. If Greece repays its $240 billion EU loan, we’ll return the Marbles,” attacks Greece’s efforts for the reunification of the Parthenon marbles.

The article also refers to Ms. Amal Alamuddin’s contribution in this cause, in her capacity as a human rights lawyer and attempts to ridicule the country’s efforts to take back what was stolen from it.

“Hollywood has a reputation for creating trite storylines in which either a lawyer is cast as the hero or England as the villain. Its latest epic has both, and this one is reality.

Little more than a week after her marriage to George Clooney, the world’s most photographed barrister, Amal Alamuddin -Clooney, has flown off to advise the Greek government on how to force the removal of the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum,” says The Spectator.

The writer of the article expresses the opinion that Greece, due to the economic crisis, has more immediate worries than the “whereabouts of a set of decorative stones” (a phrase which shows exactly what these amazing and unique artifacts mean to some ignorant British) that “were rescued in the early 19th century with permission from [[Turkish]] authorities in Athens — to save them from being chiselled away by peasants for -quicklime.”

The British magazine then proposes a “compromise” to Ms. Alamuddin and Greece: “We will return the Elgin Marbles once Greece has repaid the €240 billion of emergency loans made by EU states during the crisis, and honoured all its government bonds.”

The grossly inaccurate article concludes that Greece should “recognize the role Lord Elgin played in rescuing its deteriorating heritage and accept that the British Museum has done an excellent job in preserving the marbles and displaying them to scholars and the public alike.”

British MPs agree Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Athens

British Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George characterized that is Shameful for Britain to” parade stolen spoils from the otherwise excellent British Museum.”

After submitting the related question to the Ministry of Culture, Mr. George added that:” Surely the United Kingdom needs to constructively take action, act generously and recognize that the Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Athens”.

Labor MP Jeremy Corbyn also expressed the same belief and highlighted that the marbles have basically been stolen from Greece. “Greece has very strong feelings on the matter. Probably our relations with Greece will be further improved if we return part if not all of their belongings”.

Secretary of Culture Ellen Grant, replied to the placements of the two MPs by saying that: ” “The British government is well aware that UNESCO wants to mediate for the Parthenon Marbles. We will take this proposal into account and we will respond in due course. It is clear that the sculptures belong legally to the British Museum, which is open to all and free of charge”.

At the same time, she stressed that she refuses to accept that the “objects” have been stolen and she highlighted that:”I can assure you that there is a constructive discussion between the governments of Greece and Britain. The matter was already discussed recently, in early October, at the headquarters of UNESCO in Paris. “

Source: AFP & Protothema [October 16-17, 2014]