Illicit trade in cultural goods

25-07-2017

Illicit trade (or trafficking) in cultural goods is defined by the European Commission as the 'illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property, i.e. items being of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science' and is characterised as ranging 'from theft from cultural heritage institutions or private collections, through looting of archaeological sites to the displacement of artefacts due to war'. The European Commission points out that trafficking in cultural goods 'fosters terrorism, money laundering, tax evasion, and organised crime' and that 'Europe, where art and culture are highly prized and where many wealthy buyers can be found, is a favourite outlet for trafficking'. Cultural goods have a significant economic value in the market and the trafficking of cultural goods and antiquities is estimated to be worth between US$50 million and US$150 million a year. The European Union does not have common rules on the import of cultural goods. Two EU acts govern only selected areas: Regulation (EU) 116/2009 lays down rules on the export of cultural goods, and Directive 2014/60/EU governs the return of cultural objects taken unlawfully from another EU country. Furthermore, most Member States impose restrictions on imports of culture goods (e.g. requiring declarations or controls) in line with Articles 34 and 35 of Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). On 13 July 2017 the European Commission tabled a proposal for a regulation on the import of cultural goods, which will set out conditions and procedure for the entry of cultural goods into the customs territory of the EU. The Commission is also preparing a study on illicit trade in cultural goods in the EU and the new technologies available to combat it.

Illicit trade (or trafficking) in cultural goods is defined by the European Commission as the 'illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property, i.e. items being of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science' and is characterised as ranging 'from theft from cultural heritage institutions or private collections, through looting of archaeological sites to the displacement of artefacts due to war'. The European Commission points out that trafficking in cultural goods 'fosters terrorism, money laundering, tax evasion, and organised crime' and that 'Europe, where art and culture are highly prized and where many wealthy buyers can be found, is a favourite outlet for trafficking'. Cultural goods have a significant economic value in the market and the trafficking of cultural goods and antiquities is estimated to be worth between US$50 million and US$150 million a year. The European Union does not have common rules on the import of cultural goods. Two EU acts govern only selected areas: Regulation (EU) 116/2009 lays down rules on the export of cultural goods, and Directive 2014/60/EU governs the return of cultural objects taken unlawfully from another EU country. Furthermore, most Member States impose restrictions on imports of culture goods (e.g. requiring declarations or controls) in line with Articles 34 and 35 of Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). On 13 July 2017 the European Commission tabled a proposal for a regulation on the import of cultural goods, which will set out conditions and procedure for the entry of cultural goods into the customs territory of the EU. The Commission is also preparing a study on illicit trade in cultural goods in the EU and the new technologies available to combat it.