The European Commission is taking new action to help Member States recover national treasures which have been unlawfully removed from their territory.
European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani proposed today to strengthen the possibility for restitution available to Member States, since the current legislation is not proving sufficiently effective in achieving the recovery of unlawfully removed national treasures. The changes would ensure that more cultural goods will be recovered, the deadline for restitution claims will be extended, any possessor of an object requiring compensation for returning the object would be required to prove it was not knowingly acquired illegally, and information sharing between national authorities on the movement of culturally significant objects will be improved.
The loss of cultural objects, classified as "national treasures of artistic, historic or archaeological value" is a particularly severe form of illicit trafficking of cultural property. It deprives citizens of their history and identity and endangers the preservation of Member States' cultural heritage.
Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: "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."
Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, in charge of Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth stated: "we all agree about the high value of European heritage and the need to use all available means to protect it, including EU measures. I believe that information relating to illegally removed goods must circulate more quickly and widely and stronger cooperation between the Member States' responsible authorities is needed."