Achieving an agreement for the permanent return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece by the British Museum “is difficult, but not impossible,” said Culture and Sports Minister Lina Mendoni in Parliament on Monday.
Responding to a parliamentary question calling on the government to be transparent about the issue, she reiterated the government’s stance that she said “remains unanimous, consistent and clear.”
Greece does not recognize any claims or ownership of the British Museum over the Parthenon Marbles, as they comprise a product of theft, the minister reiterated.
She added that “the government has been working from the start systematically, responsibly, and effectively to achieve the national goal—the return and reunification of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens and the Acropolis Museum.”
Parthenon Marbles to “start returning to Greece by end of 2023”
On Monday, The Times of London published a report based on an interview with a Greek official who apparently expressed his confidence that the Parthenon Marbles will start arriving in Greece by the end of 2023 under a “win-win deal.”
Greece is claiming to be on the verge of striking a “win-win” deal with the British Museum over the Elgin Marbles, which it expects to start returning before the end of the year https://t.co/2vC5ebMOEX
— The Times and The Sunday Times (@thetimes) January 23, 2023
At the same time, the unnamed source claimed that an idea that is being explored by both London and Athens is the establishment of a “British Museum annex” at the Acropolis Museum.
The Times adds that the British Museum and the Greek government had ruled out any “loan, trade or exchange because any such agreement would have to include reference to the ownership dispute, a red line for both sides.”
UK government dashed hopes of their return
Despite the cautious optimism expressed by Greece, the fact remains that, recently, the UK dashed hopes for a return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.
Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said that the sculptures “belong here in the UK” and should not be returned to Greece.
In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC, she said sending the sculptures to Greece would “open a can of worms” and be a “dangerous road to go down.”
It would “open the gateway to the question of the entire contents of our museums,” she said.
She added she had had “several conversations” with the museum’s chairman, George Osborne. “I think his view on this has been misinterpreted and certainly portrayed wrongly,” she explained.
“He’s not about to send them back, basically,” she said. “That’s not his intention. He has no desire to do that. There’s also been this concept of a 100-year loan mooted as well, which is certainly not what he’s planning either.”
“He would agree with me that we shouldn’t be sending them back,” she maintained, “and actually they do belong here in the UK, where we’ve cared for them for a great deal of time, where we’ve allowed access to them.”