The International Meeting “PARTHENON: The Integrity of a Symbolic Monument -The Role of Citizens-An International Campaign” was organized by the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation” in cooperation with “Melina Mercouri Foundation”, at the Acropolis Museum on 26th of June, 2014. This meeting is the first step of the new international campaign for the Reunification of Parthenon Sculptures, called “Return-Restore-Restart”.
Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO, Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, opened the meeting with her speech: “For each and every Greek , the integrity of Parthenon Sculptures is a national demand. But for every spiritual man is a question not only of cultural heritage, but a question of global ethics and rehabilitation order. As a Greek and as a Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO, I will not stop fighting for the reunification of Parthenon Sculptures, for their integrity. But also transnational cultural properties that have lost their way but not their voice and identity. Our campaign “RETURN (Return the Marbles) RESTORE (Restore Parthenon) RESTART (Restart History)” is another expression of the great struggle that began by late Melina Mercouri in 1982 and aims at even more substantial update of the Greek people on this issue, in an even greater awareness of global opinion and international organizations and ensuring broader alliances in this deal for the big comeback … I invite you to take a stand on our side. To support the international campaign that begins with the initiative of our Foundation in collaboration with the “Melina Mercouri Foundation”. Sending the message that the sculptures have a name and identity, have history and homeland, have memory and voice and that this voice becomes louder all over the world!”
The meeting was addressed by the Greek Minister of Culture, Mr. Constantinos Tasoulas and the Minister of Tourism, Mrs Olga Kefalogianni who welcomed the initiative of the new campaign. In particular, Mr Tasoulas said: “The idea of the campaign is very important and there is no more powerful weapon than an idea whose time has come. The Acropolis Museum is a museum waiting the Marbles and prepares the Idea, as well as the rationale for the UNESCO heritage monuments. The State will become the forefront of the idea in order the standby time to become limited “
The General Director of UNESCO, Mrs Irina Bokova, sent a written message: “Greece has long played an exemplary role in international efforts to protect moveable cultural heritage and fight against the illicit traffic of cultural objects. As a member of the recently created Subsidiary Committee of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, the country serves as a pilot for other Parties to the Convention. Through its cooperation with UNESCO in seeking the return of the Parthenon Sculptures in the framework of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation, Greece embodies the spirit of international cooperation that is at the heart of the United Nations. I have no doubt that the upcoming event entitled Parthenon – The Unity of a Monument – The Role of Citizens will be another bright illustration of the Greek nations unique place in the protection of the world’s cultural heritage.”
This was followed by speeches of the professors, the experts and heads of national Committees for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, who participated in the meeting.
During the first session with subject “Necessity of reunification” Dr. Mounir Bouchenaki, Honorary Special Adviser to the Director General of UNESCO Mrs. Irina Bokova, Director of the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage in Bahrain, said: “UNESCO created a transnational Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles because we believe that we must ensure that the symbols should be returned to their home countries, and the Parthenon is a Greek symbol. The Reunification of the Marbles is a question of ethics and morality. Moreover, all those who visit the Acropolis Museum remain amazed … and the good news are that the returning of antiquities to their countries of origin has already started, as happened recently in the case of Cambodia.”
Taking the floor Professor Dimitrios Pantermalis, President of the Acropolis Museum, noted that “the issue of the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles is a national issue, and for a nation, it is very important how to manage national issues, it is important to be well prepared when claiming, and the Acropolis Museum has completed this preparation. Finally, referring to the initiative of the ” Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation” he said: “It is a new quality start for the assertion of the Sculptures”.
Dr. William St Clair, Senior Researcher at the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study of the University of London, and Dr. Mark Vlasic, Professor of Law at the University of Georgetown, reported on the legal side of the issue by saying that it is necessary to introduce a new ethics, a new law on cultural heritage sites such as Parthenon.
The theme of the second section, which was “The Campaign for the Marble and the Role of Citizens'” was presented by Mr. Christopher Argyropoulos, President of the “Melina Mercouri Foundation”, President of the Special Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Culture and Sports for the Parthenon Marbles and by Ms. Manuella Pavlidou, General Secretary of the “Melina Mercouri Foundation”. Both of them referred on the efforts made by the Greek State with prime mover the late Melina Mercouri, from 1982 onwards.
Mr. Argyropoulos focusing on the idea of reclaiming stressed that “The sculptures emerge only in the physical space and the exhibition at the British Museum does not represent their beauty, while further disrupts the unity and deprives them of meaning and value.” He added: “Those who underestimate the claim ignore our request that the Greeks are entitled to claim.”
Ms Pavlidou referring to Melina’s struggle for the return of the Parthenon sculptures said: “And even if Melina no longer exists, the example of her sensitivity and commitment is still there, as well as her strength and militancy in the service of this valuable idea. Today a new era starts for the legacy she left us” and addressing to Mrs Vardinoyannis she added “I am sure that your personality and your international prestige will contribute decisively to the inspired, dynamic campaign announced today, to bring us closer in making the vision of Melina a reality for all. ”
Mr. David Hill, President of the International Committee for the Restitution of Parthenon Marbles, taking the floor expressed the hope that the campaign ‘Return, Restore, Restart’, starts a new future for the Parthenon Marbles and that in this future Greece is not alone, and therefore the claim is not only nationwide but of world heritage. “We have to send in Britain the message that Greece is not alone. It has as allies 16 large and powerful countries, who have Bid Committee of the return of Parthenon marbles and that the vast majority of world opinion, even that of Britain, wants the return of Parthenon Marbles. We believe that the effort of Mrs. Vardinoyannis is very strong! Together we will win!”.
Taking the floor Ms. Marlen Godwin, member of the British Committee for the Restitution of Parthenon Marbles, represented the President of the British Marbles Bid Committee, Mr Eddie O ‘Hara and she delivered his message: «The return of the Marbles is a matter of principle and the legal arguments put forward by opponents of the issue are of no importance. Those who do not support the claim should support their arguments, and not the opposite “. Regarding the argument that the Return of Parthenon Marbles will open the floodgates, Mrs. Godwin said: “There is no other precedent, there is no case of antiquities in the world similar to that of the Parthenon Marbles. This request is unique in the world.” And addressed to Mrs Vardinogiannis she added: “You start a difficult campaign. Do not get frustrated, disappointed and not like the others who started before you. Now there is the Museum, there is now courting international opinion.”
Then Mr. Fabrizio Michalizzi, representative of the Swiss Bid Committee of the Parthenon Marbles, stated that the request of Return, is a matter of justice and stressed the interest of all Europeans to restore this justice. Additionally, he said, the British Museum returning the Marbles will win the respect of all and the reputation of a noble gesture. Moreover, he said, the requirement of backlinks is only for the Marbles and not all Greek antiquities found in various museums around the world.
In his speech the Director of the Benaki Museum, Mr. Angelos Delivorias, stressed that the main requirement is the integrity of the monument.
The journalist Mr. Pavlos Tsimas spoke about the role of Media in the demand for the return of the Marbles featuring that is very important “first of all because it is crucial in this fight to prevent oblivion and secondly because it is a matter that needs documentation, two aspects that the Media can show off with the best way.”
Mr. Elias Nicolakopoulos, Professor of Social Theory and Sociology, University of Athens, presented the first nationwide poll by IPSOS OPINION company on behalf of the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation” about the importance of the return of Parthenon Marbles for Greek people and explained, based on the poll results, why the power of citizens can be a powerful lever to bring to fruition our national imperative and restore morality, order and respect for, the values with which humanity must approach the heritage monuments.
“The Parthenon is an incomparable human creation, a monument of immense value, not only for the Greeks, but for the whole world, and its integrity, the Reunification of Parthenon Marbles is a matter of moral principle and duty. We are optimistic that sooner or later it will happen” was pointed out by eminent speakers who participated in the International Meeting on “PARTHENON-The Integrity of a symbolic monument -The Role of Citizens-An International Campaign”.
Conclusion: There are now more solid foundations and a brand new horizon for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures!
The International Meeting “PARTHENON: The Integrity of a symbolic monument-The Role of Citizens-An International Campaign” was attended by the President of the “Independent Greeks” party, Mr. Panos Kammenos , the representative of SYRIZA party Mrs. Theano Fotiou MP, the Ambassadors of Austria, Iraq and Peru, the President of the ”Konstantinos Karamanlis Institute for Democracy” Mrs. Rodi Kratsa, the Academic Professor Christos Zerefos, the Director of the National Gallery Mrs. Marina Lambrakis Plaka, Dr Nikos Stampolidis- Director of the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Messenger of’ HOPE ” Sakis Rouvas, the wife of the Ambassador of Spain Mrs. Carmen Lucini, the film director Yannis Smaragdis, Mr. and Mrs. Aris Antsaklis, and many others.