Brexit must be a chance for Greece

, by Jérémy Lebourgeois, Translated by Camille Roose

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Brexit must be a chance for Greece
Cavalcade. Block II from the west frieze of the Parthenon, ca. 447–433 BC. British Museum. CC Wikimedia Commons

After more than a year, the negotiations concerning the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union should come to their first conclusions. The European Council discussed their progress on 19 and 20 October, and it might be the chance to open a new case. If the restitution of the Athenian Parthenon’s frieze held by London was brought on the table, the European Union might give the Hellenic people a better impression.

Outdated British arguments

More than 200 years ago, the British ambassador Lord Elgin ordered his men to remove every valuable sculpture from the Parthenon to bring them to London. At the time, the Ottoman Empire, which was occupying the Attica region, allowed him to do so, on the basis of documents whose authenticity has been questioned. The British Museum now owns these marbles, and since its independence, Greece has been asking for their return. It is still a bone of contention between the two countries. Brexit gives the opportunity to put an end to this conflict, especially since arguments in favour of the restitution seem to be piling up.

Indeed, London’s old rhetoric was that Greece was incapable of preserving these works properly. However, this argument is no longer valid since Athens finished the construction of the Acropolis Museum in 2009, where everything has been designed to welcome Elgin’s marbles. Besides, opinion polls and studies have shown that most British people were in favour of giving the marbles back to Greece. Politicians are then left to take this decision, which is supported by the UNESCO. The European Union should also support this decision during the negotiations on Brexit, in order to appease the resentment Greek people can feel on the EU.

A victory that would be welcomed by the Greek people

After years of austerity, the Greeks’ resentment is not weakening. Because they still feel their country is left out and is considered as the “bad pupil”, they do not see anymore the European Union as a chance. By resolving this more than one-hundred-year-old issue, the Union would be esteemed again by Greece, and would show that we are stronger together. Although this matter can seem anecdotal, it is the very reason why the Union was born. What a State cannot negotiate on its own, the Union can get it at 27.

Indeed, Greek pride might not be as galvanized as if Greece had gained the restitution on its own. Nevertheless, after 200 years of unsuccessful negotiations and years of austerity, the Hellenic people need some good historical news. What if the Union only comes to a halftone success? What if it only gets financial compensation from the United Kingdom? It would then be up to the Greek government to decide, but financial support might give Achilles’ descendants food for thought.

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