An extra 5 million euros will be provided for the Acropolis conservation works, bringing the total of European Union and national funding for the mammoth project up to 12 million euros over the next two years, the government said yesterday. While announcing the extra funding, a Culture Ministry release urged state archaeologists and conservators handling the works - which started in 1975 and are not expected to finish before 2020 - to step up their pace and improve the project's organization. «Works on the monuments, and on the new Acropolis Museum, must be speeded up so that our country can present credible arguments both in seeking extra [EU] funds for culture and in demanding the return of the Parthenon sculptures,» the ministry said. Greece has linked its lagging efforts to build the new museum under the ancient citadel to its campaign for the return of the British Museum's Elgin Collection of sculptures from the fifth-century BC. temple. The museum was supposed to have been ready last summer. But, so far, only the foundations have been laid. Citing tight budgetary constraints and a need to «rationalize» and render «credible» the schedule for the Acropolis works, in December the Culture Ministry cut 4.5 million euros from the 10-million-euro budget for 2005 of the project's supervisory body, the Service for the Conservation of the Acropolis Monuments (YSMA). Last month, Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis indicated that the government might break a 30-year taboo by seeking private sponsorship for the works. «The ministry and YSMA still wish to attract private sponsorship, but time will be required to draft the regulations on the terms and preconditions for such deals,» the ministry said yesterday. Out of YSMA's 12-million budget for 2005 and 2006, only 1.5 million will be provided by Greece. The rest will come from the EU coffers. On Monday, YSMA chief Maria Iordanidou said the current work under way on the Parthenon, the Propylaea and the Temple of Athena Nike should be finished by the end of 2006.