Culture Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos addresses the IARPS

Member organisations from the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures met in Athens yesterday.

During the course of the meeting, Panos Panagiotopoulos, the Greek Culture Minister addressed us, with his thoughts on the issue.

He emphasised the requests for the return of the marbles do not stem from Greek nationalism: “This is not an effort that starts from nationalism, this is not an effort to reinforce the ego of a European Nation. This is an effort that is deeply universal, to restore the unity of a cultural monument for all humanity.”

He elaborated on this, to explain that he feels that Greeks realise that their culture belongs to all humanity, and that they see their culture, as their passport for outreach to the rest of the world.

He then went on to inform the committees about the planned use of the UNESCO mediation process, to try and move the issue forward:

He has spoken to Irina Bokova, the current Director General of UNESCO, at a meeting in Paris in the summer. During the meeting, they discussed the case of the Marbles, and he requested that she could initiate the mediation process between Greece and the UK.

He also added that this is a legal process, but more importantly that this is the first case to which this process will have been applied.

A letter has now been sent (from UNESCO) to the following people in the UK, informing them that the UNESCO procedure is being initiated:
William Haig, the British Secretary of State for foreign affairs.
Maria Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum.

Finally, he touched on the fact that he is aware that the UNESCO mediation process is far from the only possible strategy. He noted that, “In an ideal world, there would not be these kinds of differences. However, I acknowledge that each one of you contributes to this cause with your spirit, your soul & your hearts. So this situation is only natural. I honour all your different views & would like to thank all of your for any proposals that you have made.”

However, he pointed out, that at this point in time, the decision to take the UNESCO mediation route has been made. It was underlined that this is an important step forward from Greece, so as a result, we should not let the opportunity slip away, or distract from the main focus of it.

He ended by thanking the supporters of reunification who had attended the meeting, commenting that he felt as though they were “like family” to Greece.

David Hill, the chair of the IARPS thanked the minister for his comments, and underlined the fact that the International Association will back Greece one hundred percent in their current endeavours. 

Delegates from the other committees also added their words of support, noting that it was good to see that Greece was taking such an important step forward and that it is a very positive step that there is finally a clear direction to the route that their reunification efforts are taking.

 

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