Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis raised the issue of the return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece in his speech at the event celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Friday.
“There cannot be a dialogue between nations, without a dialogue amongst cultures. Something which presupposes respect for the history, heritage, and identity of each nation. To my mind that means that emblematic monuments, inherently connected to the very identity of a nation, should be a matter for that nation,” Mitsotakis told his audience.
“Take the Parthenon Sculptures, which (are) a hugely significant piece of the world’s cultural heritage and are perhaps the most important symbolic link between modern Greeks and their ancestors. Most of that collection can be found on display in the Acropolis museum, a few hundred meters from the Parthenon…However, while a part of that collection remains exiled (at the British Museum) in London, that impact can never be fully appreciated. That is why I believe it is essential that the Parthenon marbles in London should be reunited with the majority of the Parthenon Sculptures in Athens,” Mitsotakis added.
The Greek Prime Minister hailed the unanimous adoption last September, by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property, recognizing that “the case has an intergovernmental character and, therefore, the obligation to return the Parthenon Sculptures lies squarely on the UK Government.”
The UK government’s position has steadily been that the parts of the Parthenon Sculptures brought by … were legally acquired from the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Greece at the time.
Also, a decision to return the Sculptures,could spark an avalanche of similar demands by other countries that would significantly affect some of the world’s major museums, most located in former Western colonial powers.
Mitsotakis nonetheless urged the UK government to engage in a dialogue over the sculptures’ return.