Saturday, June 15 2024

Parthenon Marbles: Τhe British House of Lords in favor of the reunification

parthenon marbles elgin 2
A fierce confrontation in the British House of Lords over the return of the Parthenon Sculptures yesterday, Thursday afternoon, with the debate turning into a juxtaposition of arguments in favor of the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, although the Secretary of State for Culture remained firm on London's official position not to return the Parthenon Sculptures.

HDN Newsroom

The proposal for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures is gaining more and more supporters in the British House of Lords.

Culture Secretary Lord Parkinson, who represented the government, however, insisted on London's official positions on the issue.

As he said, the marble sculptures were legally acquired by Lord Elgin and therefore are and are now legally owned by the British Museum.

Lord Parkinson also said the monument could not be fully united, as many parts of it were lost or destroyed over the centuries.

He particularly pointed to the British Museum Act, which prohibits a "government-independent" institution from permanently assigning objects from its collection. "We have no plans to change the law," the culture secretary reiterated on behalf of the British government.

He added that "it is difficult to see how a loan can be agreed" between the British Museum and the Greek side since the Greeks insist on not recognising British ownership of the sculptures.

He added that in the hypothetical case that the Greek side changes position, export licenses in these cases allow the borrowing of exhibits for a maximum period of three years.

Lord Lexden of the Conservatives, who secured and opened the debate, argued in favour of keeping the sculptures in London, arguing that the British Museum has full legal ownership. Among other things, he criticized the Greek side for using the term "theft" in reference to Elgin's actions, when "no legal judgment has been requested." He added that After two centuries "Elgina" is now part of the British cultural heritage.

Out of a total of eleven speakers other than the Secretary of State who took the floor, only two more defended the preservation of the Marbles in the British Museum.

Indicatively, Lord Hannan of the Conservatives commented  that "even if Prime Minister Mitsotakis could claim that he is directly descended from Phidias, what of that?" He added that if the sculptures could be returned to the Parthenon building, then there would be no discussion.

Labour's Baroness Chakrabarti said  the Conservative government was willing to change the law to send migrants to Rwanda in defiance of court rulings, but was not legislating to promote cultural cooperation. He also commented that the British people, according to opinion polls, know how to be more magnanimous than those in power.

Lord Alan of the Liberal Democrats said he preferred the Athenian telling of the history of the sculptures and Baroness Bennett of the Greens noted that Britain was depriving people of the experience of viewing the sculptures in the place where they came from.

One of the originators of Brexit, Lord Frost, who caused a sensation when he initially advocated reunification, said that for him it was not a legal issue, but an argument concerning the artistic and moral dimension of the thing. "It is a special case that requires a special solution," he said, stressing that the sculptures "for us British are a very important exhibit in a museum, but for Greeks they are part of their national identity."

He advocated not a loan, but a "great gesture" that only the government could make, namely to donate the sculptures to Athens as part of a broad bilateral cultural cooperation.

He cauterized, like other speakers, Rishi Sunak's "derogatory" behavior towards Kyriakos Mitsotakis, with the cancellation of their meeting.

Conservative Lord Veezy, a former culture secretary and current chairman of the Parthenon Project, intervened to say that the whole thing was about "reuniting a unique work of art" and that it offered  a unique opportunity for a grand gesture and to strengthen an important bilateral friendship.

Parthenon Project member and House of Cards author Lord Dobbs, also a Conservative, said Britain would not lose anything but would benefit from seizing the opportunity to use the "soft power" so much talked about.

 Labour's Lord Dabbs said he was "appalled" by the British prime minister's "shameful" behaviour towards his Greek counterpart. He stressed that the reunification of the sculptures would not create a precedent for other claims, because it is a unique work of art. He estimated that even a change in the law concerning the collection of the British Museum could be achieved.

Lord McNally of the Liberal Democrats said the sculptures were "a dilemma that has an opportunity as a solution", namely for Britain to show it was looking to the future magnanimously, while stressing the "unique importance" of Phidias' work.

Representing the main opposition Labour Party, Lord Basham focused on the possibility of borrowing the sculptures, saying that if a mutually acceptable agreement is reached between the British Museum and the Greek side, "why stand in the way?"

He reiterated that Labour as a government would not be involved in a change in legislation.

Finally, he criticised Rishi Sunak for a lack of leadership, as evidenced by his move to avoid an "adult" conversation with Kyriakos Mitsotakis.