Brexit: Academic slams EU for Elgin Marbles ‘political trick’
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The message came as European Neighbourhood Minister Wendy Morton held talks with Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis on bilateral relations which included the status of the historic artefact. Since independence in 1832, Greece has repeatedly called for the repatriation of the treasures – known in Britain as the Elgin Marbles.
British diplomat Lord Elgin removed them from the Parthenon temple in Athens in the early 19th century, when Greece was under Ottoman rule.
But the British Museum in London has refused to return the sculptures, roughly half of a 160-meter (525-foot) frieze which adorned the 5th century BC monument.
A museum spokesman said they were acquired by Elgin under a legal contract with the Ottoman Empire and are part of everyone’s “shared heritage”.
During the talks, Ms Varvitsiotis ordered their “return home” by the British Museum.
He said in a statement: “An issue I raised, as I consider I must always do, is that of reintegrating the Parthenon Marbles, which must finally return to the unique World Heritage monument, the Parthenon.”
It comes after Prince Charles had an official two-day visit to Greece, at the request of the British Government following an invitation from Greece’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis last month.
Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were guests at an official state dinner at the presidential mansion in Athens for the country’s Bicentenary Independence Day celebrations.
But the Express understands the visit was also a bid to “Charm the Greeks” due to tensions over the Elgin Marbles.
A UK Government source added to this publication: “Prince Charles visit was to show a hand of friendship to Greece, we want to be close friends with them.
“But we also needed to reaffirm the message they [The Marbles] belong to us and we have to repeat that position again.”
During the talks, where tourism and Cyprus were also discussed, Ms Morton also said her hope was for an even closer relationship to be built going forward.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a former classics student, reiterated the British Museum was the legitimate owner of the marbles.
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Speaking last month, he said he understood the feelings of many Greeks about the issue but said Britain had a “firm and long-standing” position about the sculptures.
Mr Johnson added: “They were acquired legally by Lord Elgin, in line with the laws that were in force at that time.
Greece’s conservative government stepped up pressure for a return of the marbles since it took power in 2019.
The campaign was understood to have intensified by Brexit.
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