Discussion on the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles held at European Parliament

Europa Nostra attended the roundtable discussion on ‘The Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles: A European concern’, organised in collaboration with the Swiss Committee for the Return of the Marbles and supported by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, at the European Parliament in Brussels on 15 October. The main objective was to inform European parliamentarians and raise awareness among the European public on this issue.

Photo: The Acropolis of Athens, Greece, location of the next European Heritage Awards Ceremony.

Photo: The Acropolis of Athens, Greece, location of the next European Heritage Awards Ceremony.

“The fact that the discussion was held within the European Parliament, at the heart of European democracy, among elected representatives of the peoples of Europe and prominent supporters of various European countries is of great importance”, stated Rodi Kratsa, MEP, former Vice-president of the EP and Member of the Board of the European Cultural Centre in Geneva.

“This is a unique case. This is not an issue of repatriation of just any sculptures. This is about restoring the Parthenon by returning pieces of a whole, violently and unlawfully detached and removed by lord Elgin at a time when the country was under foreign occupation. The return of the Parthenon marbles is a moral obligation for the whole of Europe in the framework of the priority attached to the protection of our common cultural heritage, the integrity and the dignity of our monuments,” she advocated.

“The British Museum now has an opportunity to transform the protocols of cultural diplomacy by reunifying the Parthenon Marbles in Athens. For too long the Marbles have been seen as a focus of division and a symbol of ill-feeling between Britain and Greece. There has never been a more propitious moment for a transformative gesture in cultural affairs, the reverberations of which would be positive, profound, and long-lasting,” said Tom Flynn, Art historian and writer.

“Britain can take pride in the way it has cared for the Parthenon Marbles at the British Museum. But now it is time for the British to consider whether the continued presence of the sculptures is not, partially at least, a rather colonial act. The British must be asked how they would feel if the crucial stones of Stonehenge were held in France, or the monuments of Westminster Abbey were in Belgium. The argument about ownership is important, because the British will always answer appeals to restore the Marbles to Greece by saying that they are no longer a Greek possession – just as the Rock of Gibraltar is not a Spanish possession. There is firstly a cultural argument for restoration, but the ownership question must be tackled in order to persuade the British that there is not even a legal case for their continued presence,” stressed Henry Porter, journalist and author.

Miguel Ángel Martínez Martínez, Vice-President of the European Parliament and of the Board of Trustees of the House of European History, Louis Godart, Advisor for the Conservation of Artistic Heritage to the Italian President, Jo Leinen, MEP and Chairman of the European Movement International, and Maurice Davies, Museum advisor and commentator, were the other speakers invited.

Members of the European Parliament, the European Commission and other European institutions as well as experts from the academic community attended the event. Europa Nostra was represented by its Council Member, Astrid Weij.

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Parthenon Suisse

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