Greece has apparently managed to get a clause for the return of the Parthenon Marbles in the draft Brexit bill prepared by the European Union. The clause is included in a revised version of the negotiating mandate that Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, is expected to use when talks resume next week.
The clause speaks of “unlawfully removed cultural objects” that the EU will have to address their “return or restitution to the countries of origin” and has been reportedly added on request from Greece, Cyprus, and Italy.
Greece is reportedly said to be concerned about co-operation with UK on art trafficking, as London is a center for art and auction houses.
It is unclear what this clause relates to. Bloomberg cites one official describing it as “a direct reference” to the Elgin or Parthenon Marbles – however a Greek official insisted this was not a condition for a deal, notes UK’s media outlet cityam
In an article with title “Fears raised that EU will back Greece over return of Elgin Marbles in Brexit trade talks“, also The Telegraph notes that “Greece has denied the clause refers to the Elgin Marbles and is intended to fight the illicit trade in antiquities”.
Citing a diplomatic source, Greek news agency amna writes that the clause has “nothing to do” with the Greek-British dispute over the Parthenon Sculptures, which are on display at the British Museum in London.
“The purpose of this article is to ensure that stolen cultural property located on British soil is automatically returned”, the source said.
“It’s to do with the fact that London auction houses play a big role in trade in historical goods, notes the Financial Times correspondent in Brussels who also circulated the new clause online.
End of January, Greek Culture Minister has stated that “Brexit will strengthen European support for Parthenon Marbles return”. However, she did not mention that Greece would try to add a clause in the EU-UK trade deal.
Anyway, so far, there has been no official statement by Greece on the Marbles Return clause.