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  • Writer's pictureJim Mellas

Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association calls for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures

Elly Symons, gave a brilliant and impassioned speech to the delegates at the 13th General Assembly of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Union (PADEE) on recent developments in the international campaign for return and the legal and diplomatic strategies that Greece can pursue to secure the reunification of the sculptures looted by Lord Elgin and held in the British Museum since 1816.

Elly is the co-Vice Chair of the Australian Parthenon Committee and a colleague in The Acropolis Research Group

In her speech Ms Symons noted that as Greece celebrates the 200th anniversary of the start of its War of Independence in 1821, Hellenes and Philhellenes all over the world are engaged in another battle for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures.

Surveying the recent history of the campaign, she recalled that the former Greek Culture Minister Melina Mercouri in her famous address to UNESCO in 1982 declared that the call for return is made in the name of cultural heritage of the world and the voice of the mutilated monument itself that cries out for the marbles to be returned. But sadly, the British have stonewalled ever since and yet Greece continues to hope misguidedly that eventually England will do the right thing.

A new strategy is therefore needed – one that embraces an array of coherent political, diplomatic and legal tactics designed to bring pressure to bear on the British Museum and the British Government. One such strategy, described as being the least problematic, is to approach the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion. Such a step would add a powerful legal dimension to Greece’s cultural diplomatic cache.

Elly explained that Greece has been vocal in the General Assembly of the United Nations, having successfully sponsored resolutions for the return or restitution of cultural property to their countries of origin in 2012, 2015 and again in 2018. As she pointed out:

“The cultural diplomacy or soft power exercised by Greece in securing support for this resolution can serve as a benchmark for pursuing an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice which is also the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.”

The General Assembly warmly applauded the presentation and proceeded to pass the resolution, noting that the Parthenon Sculptures are the most important keys to the ancient history of Greece and constitute cultural property that enhances the identity, understanding, and appreciation for the culture that produced it.

The delegates also recalled the resolution (moved by Greece) that was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 13 December 2018 for the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin that is of fundamental spiritual, historical and cultural value to them.

The strongly-worded resolution expressed profound regret at the continuing refusal of the British Government to engage with the Greek Government in meaningful dialogue and bilateral discussions for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, and called upon the Greek Government to renew and prosecute all diplomatic, political, cultural and legal options available to Greece to secure the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.

As Elly concluded, the time has come for the marbles to be unchained from their London prison.

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