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.
The directive provides for cooperation mechanisms and a procedure for returning national treasures when these have left the territory of a Member State unlawfully. Article 4 lays down that Member States' central authorities shall cooperate and promote consultation between the Member States' competent national authorities. The contact details of the national authorities [744 KB] are published in the Official Journal of the European Union on a regular basis.
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 the directive
On 25 May 2000, the Commission adopted its first report on the application of Regulation No 3911/92 on the export of cultural goods and Directive 93/7/EEC on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a Member State - COM(2000) 325 final [147 KB] .
This report reviewed the working of the two legal instruments up until 1999 and made proposals for the technical adaptation of the Regulation and the Directive, particularly with regard to the impact of the changeover to the euro, without proposing any fundamental changes.
In reply to the report of the Commission, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on illegal trade in cultural goods [56 KB] on 12 June 2001.
On 21 December 2005, the Commission adopted its second report on the application of Directive 93/7/EEC . This report covers the period 1999-2003 and concerns the EU 15. The report concludes that there is a need for improvement in the cooperation and exchange of information between the Member States and that there should be an extension of the time limit for bringing action for restitution. COM(2005) 675 final [171 KB] .
In the light of information received from the Member States, the report concluded that the revision of the Directive should be considered. Accordingly, the Commission initiated in 2009 the process for a possible revision of the Directive in 2012.