The work of the 22nd Session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Commission for the Return of Cultural Property to Countries of Origin (ICPRCP) was completed last Wednesday. One of the main items on the Commission’s agenda was the case of the return of the Parthenon Sculptures (Greece vs The United Kingdom), which has been firmly on its agenda since 1984, when it was first raised by Melina Mercouri.
In addition to the Recommendation which it has consistently adopted on the subject, the Commission unanimously voted for the first time this year for an additional text which is Decision 22 COM 17 exclusively focused on the matter of the return of the Parthenon Sculptures.
After the completion of the Intergovernmental Commission’s work, Minister of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni made the following statement: “Greece’s request for the final return of the Parthenon Sculptures to Athens has been on the agenda of the sessions of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Return of Cultural Property to the Countries of Origin (ICPRCP) since 1984, when it was first introduced. by Melina Mercouri, until today.
“At the 22nd Session, which ended last night, Greece succeeded in issuing both a Recommendation regarding the poor conditions of the Sculptures’ display at the British Museum and the issuing for the first time of a Decision by the Intergovernmental Committee on the Return of the Parthenon Sculptures. The Commission urges the United Kingdom to reconsider its position and to negotiate with Greece, acknowledging that the matter is intergovernmental – contrary to the British side’s claim that the case concerns the British Museum alone- and primarily that Greece is rightly and legally claiming the Return of the Sculptures to their land of origin. Both texts, the Recommendation and the Decision, are a very important development in our country’s perfectly legal claim.
“I would like to heartly thank the members of the Greek delegation, as well as our Permanent Representation at UNESCO, who worked systematically with total commitment to the goal of the Sculptures’ final return and achieved this extremely positive result,” concluded Lina Mendoni.
The additional value of the Decision is that the Commission expresses its strong dissatisfaction with the matter of the issue’s resolution that remains pending, due to the United Kingdom’s position. In addition, it urges the United Kingdom to reconsider its position and enter into a bona fide dialogue with Greece, emphasizing the dispute’s intergovernmental nature.
Correspondingly, the Recommendation text expresses among other things the Commission’s concern that the Duveen Gallery at the British Museum, where the Parthenon Sculptures are on display, is closed to the public due to the need for restoration work.
Greece’s just request for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures was strongly supported by the majority of the Commission members.
At the 22nd Session of the Intergovernmental Committee, Greece was represented by the Ministry of Culture with Secretary General of Culture George Didaskalou, General Director of the Acropolis Museum Nikolaos Stampolidis and Head of the Directorate of Documentation and Protection of Cultural Heritage Vasiliki Papageorgiou. On behalf of the Foreign Ministry, Greece was represented by Legal Adviser of the Ministry’s Special Legal Service Artemis Papathanassiou.