Dusan Sidjanski : "The Parthenon Should Be a Symbol of the EU”

The President of the Swiss Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, strongly argues that this burning issue must be addressed at a European level.

At the invitation of the Athens College Alumni Association (SAKA), Prof. Dusan Sidjanski, Pres. of the Swiss Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, gave a presentation to a packed audience in Choremi Auditorium. He began by showing a video created by the Swiss Committee, titled “Yearning for Aegean Light,” in which leading figures speak in favor of the definitive return of the marbles and followed by giving a lecture, titled “Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures: Α Gift to International Youth,” in which he explained the Swiss Committee’s position on the issue.  A leading thinker, Dusan Sidjanski founded the Department of Political Science at the University of Geneva in 1969. He also served as advisor to Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission (2004-2014.  The Swiss Committee works closely with the International Commission (under whose umbrella 19 committees operate worldwide), as well as with the European Union and UNESCO.

The claim to reunify the Parthenon Marbles has been going on for decades, to no avail.  How do you believe that the claim tactics could be changed?

“Personally, I have two big dreams: a united Europe and reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, which are essentially the same vision. The Parthenon is a unique symbol of European culture and civilization.  I, therefore, believe that the demand for reunification should be addressed on a European level; it is a European issue and not a Greek one, as originally argued.

What mistakes do you think have been made by the Greek government and by Greeks in general?

“It was wrong to ask the British Museum to “lend” the Marbles. The Marbles belong neither to the British Museum, nor to Great Britain. They belong to Greece and should be returned here definitively, particularly now with the creation of the Acropolis Museum, one of the best museums globally.  The Parthenon Marbles are an indivisible unit; they have a narrative; they unfold somewhat like a movie.  It is also a mistake to allow use of the term “Elgin Marbles,” especially by us.  What does “Elgin” mean?  These are the Parthenon Marbles, stolen by Elgin, who was even imprisoned for three years in France en route to Britain.”

How could the British Museum agree to the prospect of a definitive return when it firmly refuses to do so?

“A discussion has opened about the possibility of offering exhibits to be chosen by the Greek side in exchange for the Parthenon Marbles, within the context of a friendly agreement and as a sign of goodwill.”

Should we seek the return of Greek treasures from other museums as well, using the same rationale as that for the return of the Parthenon Marbles?

“My opinion is no, precisely because they can be exhibited independently, as, for instance, the Winged Victory of Samothrace.  The Parthenon case is unique.  However, if other museums chose to return some of their exhibits, the ethical pressure on the British Museum would be very great.”

In your opinion, shouldn’t we choose the legal route?

“No, I believe it is important to press the matter diplomatically and to significantly influence public opinion.  Legally, of course, there is no argument in favor of the British side.  Nowhere was there a written decree that would have allowed Lord Elgin, then British Ambassador to Constantinople, to take such actions. There is only one unsigned document granting permission to Elgin’s crews to draw sketches and make casts.  It is theft.  Nonetheless, a diplomatic approach is preferable.  Opinion polls show that both the British people and members of the British Parliament are in favor of returning the Marbles. In fact, Jeremy Corbyn has said that if elected Prime Minister, he will return the Marbles. I believe we need to work intensively on a communication platform and to address today’s youth, in particular.  After all, we’ve seen their dynamism as it concerns climatic changes.”

What do you believe the Greek government ought to do right away?

“Appeal to European institutions to initiate claims on a European level. The European Union is a miracle; the achievement of unifying so many cultures is a miracle.  The Parthenon should be a symbol of the European Union.”

What’s more, “protecting” the Marbles from environmental pollution, which for years has dominated the British side’s argument, has crumbled since the creation of the Acropolis Museum. 

“The Marbles must return to the Mediterranean light.  Architect Bernard Tsoumi did a special study on how light would diffuse inside the Museum, so that the marbles are illuminated inside the building in much the same way as at the Parthenon’s natural environment.  Not confined to a dark room and at such close proximity to visitors. And, let’s not forget that the Acropolis Museum is a special museum, specially dedicated to the Acropolis, one that “interacts” with the Holy Rock, as opposed to the British Museum that centers around world culture. As Rodin had said, ‘No matter how many electric lights they bathe in, it will not prevent them from seeking the eternally, sweet light that Homer had immortalized’”

Source:  Vima