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Secret deal for timely limited return of Parthenon Sculptures raises furore

A plethora of publications in major international media, mainly British, but also in Bloomberg, have reported of an imminent agreement between the Acropolis Museum and the British Museum for the partial and timely limited return of the Parthenon sculptures to Greece.

The “deal” is in fact no return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece but a loan of the British Museum for a couple of years and in exchange of other antiquities from Greek Museums to London.

The deal reports sparked a furore in Greece as such a deal would mean that Greece would recognize that the British Museum is the legitimate owner of the sculptures stolen by Lord Elgin from the Acropolis in the beginning of the 19th century.

Nevertheless, while the government in Athens and especially the Culture Ministry has not officially reacted to the media reports so far, it was the British Museum that announced late on Wednesday that it was holding “constructive discussions” with Greece over the Parthenon Sculptures.

“We’ve said publicly, we’re actively seeking a new Parthenon partnership with our friends in Greece and as we enter a new year constructive discussions are ongoing,” the British Museum said in a statement.

Thursday morning, the director of the Acropolis Museum Νikos Stampolidis told daily efsyn that he was not negotiating with anyone on the issue. He described the Bloomberg report that the directors of the two museums were negotiating on the issue as “provocative.”

The question that arises is the obvious: With whom does the British Museum is holding “constructive discussions”?

  • It’s not the director of the Acropolis Museum and it looks as if it’s not the Culture Minister either. Who is it then? The entourage of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis?

Culture Minister Lina Mendoni remains silent and there are leaks to the Greek government-affiliated media that denying the deal reports, even though ministers said in the past that there have been negotiations in the last year.

The Greek government said last month it was in talks over their repatriation, and Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday that an agreement had been drawn up between the museum’s chairman, former finance minister George Osborne, to allow them to be returned as part of an exchange deal.

The paper reported such an arrangement, which would in effect be a loan arrangement, could be concluded soon. However, Greek officials have said discussions were at a preliminary stage, reuters reported.

A well-placed senior Greek official told the Guardian on Wednesday: “This is not true. there is no such deal.”

So in the end of the day it comes out that the conservative Greek government is holding discussions behind closed doors, it has secret consultations and negotiations and meetings with trustees of the British Museum, contacts with  unsolicited mediators, for a deal that is at the cost of Greece that has been struggling for decades for the return of the Parthenon sculptures to their eternal home.

The Times of London has reportedly congratulated the British Museum director to the deal that is expected to be announced soon.

But Greek opposition media lash out at the conservative government claiming that the PM is going to strike such a despicable deal to use it as a TV spot and great success of New Democracy ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections.


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