February 8, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Secret deal for limited return of Parthenon sculptures causes furor

Numerous publications in major international media, mostly British, as well as Bloomberg, have reported on the imminent conclusion of an agreement between the Acropolis Museum and the British Museum for a partial and limited-time return of the Parthenon sculptures to Greece.

In fact, the “deal” is not in the return of the Parthenon sculptures to Greeceand in lending them to the British Museum, for a couple of years and in exchange for other antiquities from Greek museums.

Reports of the deal caused a furore in Greece, as such a deal would have meant that Greece recognizesthat the British Museum is the rightful owner of the sculptures stolen by Lord Elgin from the Acropolis in the early 19th century.

However, while the government in Athens and especially the Ministry of Culture has yet to formally respond to media reports, it was the British Museum that announced late Wednesday that it was in “constructive talks” with Greece over the Parthenon sculptures. “We have publicly stated that we are actively seeking a new Parthenon partnership with our friends in Greece, and as we enter the new year, constructive discussions continue,” the British Museum said in a statement.

On Thursday morning, the director of the Acropolis Museum, Νikos Stampolidis, told the efsyn newspaper that he is not negotiating with anyone on this issue. He called Bloomberg’s report that directors of the two museums are in talks over the issue “provocative.” The obvious question is: with whom is the British Museum in “constructive talks”? This is not the director of the Acropolis Museum and, it seems, not the Minister of Culture. Then who is it? The entourage of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis?

Culture Minister Lina Mendoni remains silent, and Greek government-affiliated media outlets are leaking reports of a deal, even though ministers have said in the past that negotiations have been underway for the past year. Last month, the Greek government said it was in talks to repatriate them, and Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday that an agreement had been drawn up between the museum’s chairman, former finance minister George Osborne, to return them as part of a swap deal. The newspaper reported that such an agreement, which, in fact, is a loan, may be concluded in the near future. However, Greek officials said the talks were at a preliminary stage, Reuters reported.

On Wednesday, a senior Greek official told the Guardian: “That’s not true. There is no such deal.” Characteristically, the London Times in a new publication congratulates George Osborne, director of the British Museum, on the agreement with Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which is expected to be announced soon. Thus, at the end of the day, it turns out that the conservative Greek government is holding discussions behind closed doors, it has secret consultations and negotiations, meetings with the trustees of the British Museum, contacts with unsolicited intermediaries to reach a deal that will cost Greece, which has been fighting for decades to return the Parthenon sculptures. to their eternal home.

The Greek opposition media has lashed out at the conservative government, claiming that the prime minister is going to make such a dastardly deal to use as a TV commercial and a big success for New Democracy ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections.



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