The European Year of Cultural Heritage aims to strengthen initiatives designed to prevent the illicit trafficking of cultural goods. This is being achieved by enhancing cooperation on risk management on the one hand, and raising awareness about the implications of illicit trade in cultural goods on the other – both within and outside of the EU.

For whom?

National authorities competent for heritage protection, policymakers, enforcement authorities, art market, research communities.


The initiative has 3 components:

Component 1: Adoption of regulatory measures

The adoption of a regulation on the import of cultural goods into the EU will strengthen Europe’s ability to combat the illicit trade in cultural goods.


• End of 2018
Adoption of the regulation on the import of cultural goods

Component 2: Awareness raising and capacity building activities

To address heritage looting, the capacity of local authorities must be strengthened and demand for heritage objects curbed. To this end, 2 EU-UNESCO joint projects are being implemented:

  • The first is engaging the European art market in the fight against the illicit trafficking by focusing on reinforcing due diligence and raising awareness of the implications of illegal trading.
  • Secondly, relevant EU enforcement authorities are being trained on the legal framework as well as practical ways of investigating heritage-related crimes.


• December 2017
"Training to enforcement authorities" EU-UNESCO initiative launched
• 20 March 2018
EU-UNESCO workshop "Engaging the European art market in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property", in Paris, France

• 30-31 May 2018
TAIEX-PI “Workshop on the Protection of Iraqi Cultural Heritage and Fighting Terrorism”, in Brussels, Belgium
• October/November 2018
“Legal Measures & Practical Tools to fight the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property - a toolkit for EU judiciary and law enforcement officials” published both in hard copy and e-learning modules

• 26-28 November 2018
EU-UNESCO training for European judiciary and law enforcement officials on the fight against the illicit trafficking in cultural property in Paris, France

Component 3: Improving evidence and sharing experience

Managing risks affecting heritage
Natural disasters can significantly affect cultural heritage sites, and EU Member States must be fully prepared. In March 2018, the European Commission published a study that shares best practices, identifies effective ways of protecting cultural heritage at risk and paves the way for improved cooperation.

Better understanding illicit trade in cultural goods
2 research actions will achieve a better understanding of the illicit trade in cultural goods:

  • A Commission led (DG EAC) study on trafficking and the use of new technologies to combat illicit trading will achieve a deeper understanding of the routes and volumes used by traffickers to enter the EU, and how these operations can be stopped.
  • A Horizon 2020 (DG RTD) social platform on cultural heritage in danger will be set up to bring together EU and international researchers, public and private actors, and policymakers on issues related to the illicit trade of cultural goods.


• 2017/2018
Start of the joint EU-UNESCO project "Protecting Cultural Heritage and Diversity in Complex Emergencies for Stability and Peace"
• 2018/2019
Publication of the study (DG EAC) on “Improving knowledge about illicit trade in cultural goods in the EU, and the new technologies available to combat it"


  • Within the European Commission, services dealing with culture, external relations, research and innovation, taxation and customs
  • EU enforcement authorities, the art market

Find out more

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