European Parliament passes Act on Cultural Goods

May, 2019

Key features include introduction of a licensing system for the import of cultural goods known to be most at risk.

European Parliament passes Act on Cultural Goods

Legislation has been passed by the European Parliament which tightens the law on importing ‘cultural goods’ into the European Union.

While publication of the legislation (2017/0158 (COD)) is pending, a backgrounder published by the EU explains that key features of the law are:

‘A new common EU definition for “cultural goods” at importation which covers a broad range of objects including archaeological finds, ancient scrolls, the remains of historical monuments, artwork, collections and antiques.

‘The new rules will apply only to cultural goods which are at least 250 years old at the moment of importation;

‘The introduction of a new licensing system for the import of cultural goods which are known to be most at risk, such as archaeological objects, parts of monuments and ancient manuscripts and books.’

It says that importers ‘will have to obtain import licences from the competent authorities in the EU country where the goods are imported, before bringing such goods into the EU,’ while for other categories of cultural goods, importers will have to submit a signed statement or affidavit ‘as proof that the goods have been exported legally from the third country.’

It says, ‘[T]he import of cultural goods into the EU can be considered illicit when those goods have been exported from a non-EU country illegally. It is the laws of the exporting country, be it the source country or an intermediate country which is a UNESCO Convention signatory, which will determine this.

‘However, for cultural goods exported from a third country which is neither the source country nor an intermediate country having signed and ratified the UNESCO Convention, the importer will have to prove that the initial export from the source country was licit.’






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