01.06.2018 - UNESCO Office in Brussels

UNESCO takes part in Conference on the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Goods at the European Parliament

UNESCO attended a Conference on the Illegal Trafficking of Cultural Goods on 23 May at the European Parliament, Brussels.

The Conference was hosted by Members of the European Parliament Ms. Sabine Verheyen and Mr. Arndt Kohn and aimed to discuss the current Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the import of cultural goods which was submitted by the European Commission in July 2017.

The legislation proposes new rules to prevent imports into the European Union of cultural goods illicitly exported from their country of origin. The principal features of this proposed law include a new broadened and harmonized EU definition for 'cultural goods', the introduction of a new licensing system for the import of cultural goods which are known to be most at risk, and new powers for customs authorities to seize and retain goods for which the legal exportation cannot be demonstrated.

Gathering several experts from cultural institutions, academia and law enforcement authorities, the conference was opened by Mr. Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs. In his opening remarks, the Commissioner underlined the importance of fighting the illegal trafficking of cultural goods in the combat against terrorism, stating that imported looted goods are often a source of revenue for criminal and terrorist activities.

Following Commissioner Moscovici’s intervention, a panel discussion took place featuring: Mr. Edouard Planche, Programme Specialist in UNESCO’s Division for Heritage; Ms. Marina Schneider, UNIDROIT; Ms. Mariya Polner and Ms. Michelle Media of the World Customs organisation; representatives of the International Confederation of Art and Antique Dealers’ Associations (CINOA).

Opening the panel, Mr. Planche reminded participants that in two years UNESCO will celebrate 50 years since the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property was put in place. He stressed however that challenges still remain and some European Union Member States are still to ratify the treaty. Parties to the convention are called on to implement national legislation regarding the issue.

A vote on the draft report on the European Commission’s proposal by the responsible committees is scheduled for 10 July 2018.

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