New legislation to facilitate recovery of illegally removed national treasures

19.02.2013 - 13:52

The European Commission is planning to help Member States recover national treasures which have been unlawfully removed from their territory by amending its current legislation that has several inadequacies. Consequently, the European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani proposed today to strengthen the possibility for restitution available to Member States.

As Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship stated: "Safeguarding the cultural heritage of all Member States is of major importance to the European Union. Our proposal is therefore necessary to further strengthen the effectiveness of the fight against illegal trafficking in cultural goods. The harmful effect on our national treasures represent a serious threat to the preservation of the origins and history of our civilization."

The proposed changes would apply to cultural goods classified as "national treasures" unlawfully removed after 1993 that are now located on the territory of another Member State.

The suggestions regarding the amendment of the legislation include extending the scope of the definition of cultural goods, extending the deadline for initiating return proceedings in the courts of the country where the property is now located,  using the internal market information system to facilitate administrative cooperation and information exchanges between national authorities and finally, asking any possessor of an object requiring compensation for returning the object to prove it was not knowingly acquired illegally.

Illegal trafficking of cultural goods covers a wide range of activities from the unlawful removal of cultural property without compulsory permission, to trade in stolen goods.