Pro-reunification camp in Marbles dispute regroups following litigation advice rejection

Pro-reunification camp in Marbles dispute regroups following litigation advice rejection

London, May 20, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Thanasis Gavos

The excitement and anticipation caused by the involvement of high-profile London barristers in the case for reunifying the Parthenon Marbles was dampened by the position of the Greek Alternate Minister for Culture that one has to pick their legal battles.

Nikos Xydakis gave his seemingly dismissive response to legal advice produced by the team at London’s Doughty Chambers, including Amal Clooney, that Greece would stand a good chance if it claimed back the Sculptures located in the British Museum through the International Court of Justice at The Hague or the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg.

Despite Mrs Clooney reportedly saying that it would be “now or never” for Greece, Mr Xydakis commented: “You can’t file a suit over any issue, and the outcome in international courts is never certain. The road to reclaiming the return of the sculptures is diplomatic and political.”

The Greek government’s decision has produced a flurry of commentary and various reactions by people closely involved in the multilevel operation to exercise pressure over the British Museum and the British government, so that the Sculptures can get repatriated and reunited with the rest of the surviving parts of this unique piece of art.

Despite the triumphalism and simplicity with which some British newspapers associated with the country’s establishment declared the capitulation of the Greek side, many in the pro-repatriation camp welcomed the Greek government’s decision with a sigh of relief.

Eddie O’Hara, chairman of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles (BCRPM) wrote to Mr Xydakis to support him in his decision. As the former British MP explains, “until very recently it had been the long standing policy of the Greek government to reject recourse to litigation. The BCRPM has never supported this option for reasons which we have frequently expressed, notably that a successful verdict is almost impossible to obtain.”

Mr O’ Hara says that it is a good rule of politics not to get on a horse if you are almost certain to fall off.  In that sense, “Mr Xydakis is clearly a wise politician and we shall continue to support him in his decision. The BCRPM continues to support the diplomatic approach supported by continuous campaigning which gains increasing public support for restitution on cultural and ethical grounds. The cultural and ethical case for restitution is increasingly recognised to be overwhelming.”

Having said that, there have been supporters of the Greek cause that regret the minister’s inclination against litigation. Members of various international organisations are said to consider the legal avenue as the only one that would really put pressure on the British. “We need to act in a way that would make the other side worry and take notice. In the case of the UK history shows that this is done only through the courts; otherwise they will probably never ask themselves ‘could the Greeks be morally right?’” says one such official.

A number of suggestions on how to best carry forward the arguments for the restitution of the Sculptures have already been informally put forward, as IBNA sources confirm. For the time being, though, the most experienced crusaders of the long battle to restore the unity of the sculptural masterpiece keep calm and stress that nothing has essentially changed; apart perhaps from the crashing down of falsely raised expectations, which does in the short term give the British Museum PR team reasons to smile.