The European Commission launched a public consultation on ways to improve the safe-keeping of cultural goods and the return between Member States of national treasures unlawfully removed from their territory. The consultation will provide an insight into the views of public authorities, citizens and other stakeholders on the most effective way to facilitate such return.
There is rising concern about increasing illegal trade in high cultural properties such as paintings, sculptures, religious property and archaeological pieces.The territory of the European Union, with an internal market without borders and a great cultural and historical heritage, is particularly affected. While most thefts are perpetrated in France, Poland, Germany and Italy, according to Interpol, all Member States are involved.
The protection of cultural property relies to a great extent on the legislation of the Member States. Nevertheless, the European Union also contributes to its protection, notably by means of Directive 93/7/EEC which establishes a mechanism for the return of certain national treasures that have been unlawfully removed from the territory of a Member State after 1993. During the implementation of the Directive, Member States highlighted certain of its limitations, such as a one-year deadline for initiating recovery proceedings, with a direct consequence on its effectiveness.
European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship said: “Today, the illicit trafficking of cultural property is a major problem, going beyond a significant economic dimension, to affecting the core of our cultural identity. I share the increased concern of citizens and Member States and I am working to improve the situation. Please be a part of this effort and let us have your comments and ideas”.
Interested parties may submit their contributions to the following address:
The public consultation will be open until 05 March 2012.
More information related to the current Directive and the implementation reports: