|European Parliament Elections Results June 1999
Euro Parliament supports return of Parthenon Marbles (19 January 99)
The European Parliament signed a petition urging the British Museum to return the 2,500-year-old collection of figures that once were part of a frieze around the Parthenon on the Acropolis.
"The quarrel over the Elgin Marbles is no longer a bipartisan issue pitting Britain against Greece," noted Greek European Parliament member, Alekos Alavanos. "Now," he added, "it concerns the European Union and it gives huge capabilities to the Greek government for mobilization". Next month, the European Parliament is expected to formally ratify the petition, signed by 339 out of 626 parliament members.
"It is very significant,'' said film director Jules Dassin, who heads the Melina Mercouri Foundation spearheading the effort to bring back the marbles.
The petition is a political statement and has no legal authority to force Britain to return the Elgin Marbles. Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, took the marbles to England in the early 19th century.
So far, Britain has rejected appeals to send the marbles back to the Parthenon, the main temple on the Acropolis in central Athens. An attempt at getting European Parliament backing for the return of the marbles failed in 1996. However, during a visit to Greece in November, Prince Charles received various appeals for the return of the marbles.
A bipartisan group of British MPs yesterday tabled a motion in the House of Commons asking the British government to begin a dialogue with Athens concerning the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece as a goodwill gesture.
In the motion, the MPs propose the new millennium or at the latest by the year 2004 - when Athens hosts the Olympic Games - as the most opportune times for the return of the priceless 5th century BC friezes.
The motion recognizes that there is "fear that the restitution of the Parthenon Sculptures would set a precedent for the dismantling of all the great museum collections, but believes that this would be averted if the sculptures were returned to Greece as a gesture of goodwill".
The motion follows the success of five Greek Eurodeputies in getting colleagues in Strasbourg to sign a petition calling for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum in London to Greece.
Last Friday, 339 out of 626 Europarliament deputies, or more than half of the assembly, signed a petition in favor of a return of the marbles.
"It would be a timely act which would contribute to our common European cultural heritage," said the petition.
It was the third, and first successful, attempt by Greek Euro-MPs to gather enough signatures for a formal resolution while the other two attempts occurred in 1994 and 1996.
Greece has been trying for years to secure the return of the marbles, removed from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin before Greek independence from Ottoman rule. Elgin sold them to the British Museum in 1816. Britain has repeatedly refused Greece's requests, saying they were safer at the British Museum than in the smog of Athens, despite recently acknowledging that some damage was caused by cleaning in 1937.
According to the results of a recent MORI poll, if there were a referendum on whether or not the Parthenon Marbles should be returned to Greece or remain at the British Museum, the British public would vote for return, by a margin of more than two to one. Citing the poll results, the motion tabled yesterday underlines that the friezes and the Parthenon on the
Acropolis constitute a single "artistic entity" and points out that UNESCO has designated the Parthenon as a world cultural heritage site and sup ports the return of the Marbles to Athens.
Now its Turkey's turn says Pauline Green
The International community should now turn to Ankara for progress to the Cyprus probem, stated Euro MP and Leader of the Socialist Group Pauline Green during an interview with the London Greek Radio.