The return of the Parthenon marble to Greece was one of the key issues that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (at least according to him) intended to discuss with his British counterpart Boris Johnson, at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon in London.
Everything happened as expected: the Greek Prime Minister asked for the reunification of the sculptures, the British Prime Minister refused, saying that the decision did not belong to his government.
“Our request is not an instant decision. We will methodically insist on laying the necessary foundations and for British public opinion to address the need to reunite with the sculptures of the Acropolis Museum, ”Mitsotakis said.
Johnson replied that the question of the Parthenon marble should be decided by the British Museum, not its government.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the Greek Prime Minister said that “this is an important issue concerning our bilateral relations” and assessed that “this is not only a legal issue, it is primarily a value and political issue”.
He assured: “We will use all means to achieve our goal.”
According to an Alpha TV report from London, the Greek government is preparing a campaign to inform the British public of what is at stake.
Meanwhile the newspaper The Times reported that Mitsotakis is offering an “exchange” for the return of the marble – two iconic artifacts on loan: the golden mask of Agamemnon and the bronze statue of Poseidon.
The newspaper noted that discussions had taken place between representatives of the Greek Ministry of Culture and their British counterparts, and that Mitsotakis would raise the issue during his meeting with Johnson.
It is worth noting that in December 2020, the Greek Ministry of Culture submitted an amendment to the law that would allow it to “export museum collections, including antiques” and even “an entire monument” to museums or “similar places” abroad for up to 50 years.
It remains a “secret” so far whether the Greek prime minister was wise enough to refuse such an offer, or whether he really went on … However, Johnson, who is a phylelene and quoted Lord Byron when he met Mitsotakis today, is obviously was not impressed.
“The Prime Minister (Johnson) said he understood the strength of the feelings of the Greek people on this issue, but reiterated the UK’s long-standing position that the matter is the responsibility of the trustees of the British Museum,” Downing Street said in a statement.
“This was contrary to Mitsotakis, who said last week that this issue is a subject of negotiations between the governments of the two countries,” notes Reuters…
The British Museum says it is currently not in discussion with the Greek government on this matter. The statement said Elgin acted legally when he removed the sculptures from Athens, and they are “a vital element in this interconnected global collection,” the news agency added, recalling Johnson’s statement last March that the sculptures were “legally acquired Lord Elgin in accordance with the laws of the time and legally owned by the trustees of the British Museum from the date of their acquisition. “
The Greek Prime Minister said he understands the British Museum’s position that the potential return of the Parthenon marble friezes could result in “everyone asking for everything in the museum,” but insisted that the Parthenon marbles are a special case. He stressed that he will continue to interact with the British government and the British Museum on this matter.