Monday, 5 December 2022

UK Prime Minister's Position on Parthenon Sculptures Clarified

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum © David Gill


The British Museum is reported to be in an advanced state of discussion with the Greek authorities over the architectural sculptures originally created for the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis (Katie Razzall, "Deal to return Elgin Marbles to Greece at advanced stage - reports", BBC News December 3, 2022). Discussions have been taking place between George Osborne, the chair of the British Museum, and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek Prime Minister. More recent reports suggest that agreement is far from close ("Greece, Britain discussing Parthenon Marbles return but deal not close", ekathimerini.com December 5, 2022). It notes the UK Government position:
Asked about British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s position on their return, a spokesman said Britain had no plans to change laws which prevent removing objects from the collection apart from in certain circumstances. 
 “Our position on this hasn’t changed. Decisions relating to the care and management of the collections are a matter for the museum and its trustees,” the spokesman said.
It should be remembered that the UK Government compiled a substantial report on the Parthenon sculptures. This is discussed in:
Gill, D. W. J., and C. Chippindale. 2002. "The trade in looted antiquities and the return of cultural property: a British parliamentary inquiry." International Journal of Cultural Property 11: 50-64. [DOI]
The sculptures form an integral part of the main temple that is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site

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