Since 1993, the European Union has had legislation providing for the physical return of cultural objects that have been unlawfully removed from EU countries' territory. This legislation aims to reconcile the fundamental principle of the free movement of goods with the protection of national treasures. This legislation is applicable to the European Economic Area countries.
As was the case with Directive 93/7/EEC, the new Directive provides for cooperation mechanisms and return proceedings against the possessor to secure the return of a cultural object unlawfully removed from the territory of one EU country to the territory of another EU country on, or after, 1 January 1993.
The Directive introduces some important new elements, for example:
The European Commission has regularly adopted reports evaluating Directive 93/7/EEC. By 18 December 2020, and every five years thereafter, Member States shall submit to the Commission a report on the application of Directive 2014/60. Based on the national reports, the Commission should draft a report reviewing the application of the Directive to present to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee.
Each EU country appoints a central authority to deal with the return of cultural objects. The list of those central authorities has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union of 4 May 2016.
Moreover, according to Directive 2014/60/EU, the Commission set up an expert group, 'Return of cultural objects' in the Register of expert groups and other similar entities (Code E03204). The group aims to exchange experiences and good practices on the implementation of the Directive.