A long-running dispute between Greece and Britain over the Parthenon Sculptures has spilled into tensions over Brexit after a demand for the return of the stolen cultural artifacts was added to the draft of a European Union negotiating mandate.
The draft, says that the U.K. will need to “address issues relating to the return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origin.”
The document did not specify any cultural objects.
According to reports, an EU diplomat said the line was added at the request of Greece, with support from Italy.
Greece’s culture minister Lina Mendoni, said last month that Athens would step up its campaign for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures from London and expected to win more support from European peers as Brexit diminishes Britain’s influence.
The British Museum says the sculptures, which are roughly half of a 160-metre frieze that adorned the fifth century BC Parthenon temple, were acquired by Elgin under a legal contract with the Ottoman empire. Greece says they were stolen.
A British government spokeswoman, commenting on the draft EU document, said the UK’s position on the sculptures remained that they are “the legal responsibility of the British Museum”.
“That is not up for discussion as part of our trade negotiations,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.
The document, due to be finalised on Wednesday 19th of Febrauary, sets the parameters for the EU’s position for the negotiations which start next month.