Single market for goods
Commission wants to facilitate return of cultural objects
By Eric van Puyvelde | Tuesday 29 November 2011
The European Commission would like to improve the safe-keeping of cultural goods and the return between member states of national treasures unlawfully removed from their territory. Therefore, on 29 November, it launched a consultation on the subject, highlighting the increasing illegal trade in cultural goods, such as paintings, sculptures, religious objects and archaeological pieces. The Commission notes that the territory of the EU, 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, Directive 93/7/EEC establishes a mechanism for the return of certain national treasures that have been unlawfully removed from the territory of a member state after 1993. The feedback given by member states concludes that this directive is not effective. Member states highlighted certain of its limitations, such as a one-year deadline for initiating recovery proceedings. The main problems mentioned relate to the field of application of the directive and the conditions of recovery proceedings. Moreover, cooperation and exchange of information between competent national authorities should be improved. Thus, the Commission feels there is a need to reflect on a more efficient manner of ensuring the return of national treasures unlawfully removed from their territory in the EU.
The consultation is open until 5 March 2012.
Further information is available at