Return of cultural goods
Council Directive 93/7/EEC on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a Member State is a measure in support of internal market policy, which was adopted when internal frontiers were abolished on 1 January 1993. One of its main objectives is to reconcile the fundamental principle of the free movement of goods, as laid down by Article 34 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU), with the protection of national treasures, as set out in Article 36 of the TFEU.
Directive 93/7/EEC was adopted to ensure the return of cultural goods classified as "national treasures possessing artistic, historic or archaeological value" and belonging to the categories referred to in its Annex or forming an integral part of public collections or inventories of ecclesiastical institutions. The Annex contains a list of different categories of cultural goods that qualify for return, listed by age and by a certain value or financial threshold (e.g. archaeological objects of more than 100 years old, pictures and paintings executed by hand of more than 50 years old and with a value of €150 000).
The Directive provides for cooperation mechanisms and proceedings against the possessor for the return of a cultural object classified as a "national treasure" which belongs to one of the categories listed in the Annex when it has left the territory of a Member State unlawfully after 1 January 1993 and is located in the territory of another Member State.
Each Member State appoints one or more central authorities to carry out the tasks provided for in this Directive. The contact details of the central authorities [744 KB] are published in the Official Journal of the European Union on a regular basis. The list published on 26 February 2014 was completed with additional information related to the Slovak Republic by a corrigendum published on 15 April 2014 .
The Directive complements Regulation (EC) N° 116/2009 [54 KB] on the export of cultural goods, which sets up uniform preventive controls at the Community's external borders allowing the competent authorities in the Member States (Culture and Customs) from which the cultural goods are to be exported to a third country to take account of the interests of the other Member States.
Evaluation of Directive 93/7/EEC
Pursuant to Article 16 of the Directive, the Commission has adopted four reports reviewing the application of this Directive by the Member States.
The last reports concluded that Directive 93/7/EEC is not sufficiently effective in recovering unlawfully removed national treasures and should be revised.
Fourth report - COM(2013) 310 final
Third report - COM(2009) 408 final [64 KB]
Second report - COM(2005) 675 final [171 KB]
First report - COM(2000) 325 final [147 KB]
A new Directive on the return of cultural objects: Directive 2014/60/EU
On 15 May 2014, the European Parliament and the Council adopted Directive 2014/60/EU on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a Member State . The new provisions of the Directive which is a recast of Directive 93/7/EEC and which amends Regulation (EU) No 1024/2012 on the Internal Market Information System shall apply from 19 December 2015.
Most important proposed changes:
- The scope of the new Directive covers all cultural objects identified as "national treasures possessing artistic, historic or archaeological value", under national legislation or administrative procedures.
- Member States have a three-year time-limit for initiating return proceedings.
- The administrative cooperation and the exchange of information between the national authorities carrying out the tasks provided for in the Directive will be conducted through the Internal Market Information System (IMI).
- The possessor of a cultural object should prove, for the purpose of compensation when the return is ordered, that, at the time of its acquisition, he/she exercised due care and attention when ascertaining the legal origin of the cultural object.
Who would benefit and how?
All citizens, local and regional authorities, religious institutions, EU countries and the EU as a whole will benefit through the improved protection of their cultural heritage.
What was the legislative procedure?
On 30 May 2013, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Directive aimed at enabling Member States to recover any cultural object identified as a "national treasure" that was unlawfully removed from their territories on or after 1 January 1993. The European Parliament and the Council, following the ordinary legislative procedure, adopted the new Directive on 15 May 2014. The Directive endorses the main changes of the Commission's proposal.
Directive 2014/60/UE was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 28 May 2014 (OJ L 159, p.1 ).
When will the new Directive come into effect?
Directive 2014/60/EU shall enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. Afterwards, Member States will have 18 months to transpose the new provisions of the Directive into their national laws.
Information related to the Commission expert group
Directive 2014/60/EU on the return of unlawfully removed cultural objects foresees that the Commission should set up an expert group, composed of experts from the Member State's central authorities responsible for this Directive, in order to have a platform for the exchange of experiences and good practices on the implementation of this Directive.
The expert group "Return of cultural objects" has been set up in the Register of expert groups and other similar entities (Code E03204).
Meeting of 27 January 2015 : draft agenda