Import of cultural goods

19-12-2017

This note seeks to provide an initial analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the European Commission's impact assessment (IA) accompanying the above proposal, adopted on 13 July 2017 and now under discussion in Parliament and Council. The proposal aims to prevent the import and storage in the EU of cultural goods illicitly exported from a third country, in order to reduce trafficking in cultural goods, combat terrorism financing and protect cultural heritage, especially archaeological objects in source countries affected by armed conflict (explanatory memorandum of the proposal, p. 3). The market for antiques, ancient art and collectibles of older age constitutes 24 % of the global legal art and antiques market. The European market share accounts for 35 % of this global market, with the UK in the lead with 24 % (due to its large auction houses), followed by Switzerland (6 %), France (5 %), Germany (3 %), and Austria, Spain and the Netherlands (each around 0.5% respectively). Based on Eurostat figures, the estimated annual value of imports of classical antiquities and ancient art declared to EU customs may be around €3.7 billion per year (IA, p. 10). The IA explains that the current Common Nomenclature tariff heading (9705) used for import of antiquities and ancient art objects is rather broad, including also a variety of other goods of interest to collectors, making it difficult to estimate the total EU imports of cultural goods (IA, p. 10). Regarding the illicit trade of cultural goods, there are numerous underlying factors, which cannot be changed by this initiative, according to the IA (p. 11). These include, for example, poverty and military conflicts prevalent in many regions rich in cultural heritage sites, technological progress in various digging tools (such as metal-detectors, power drills, explosives), the market demand for such objects, mostly concentrated in Europe and North America, as well as cross-border transaction and e-commerce (IA, pp. 11-12). Estimates show that 80-90 % of global antiquities sales are of goods with illicit origin, and these sales are worth US$3 to 6 billion annually (IA, p. 12). The illicit sales of cultural goods often stem from terrorist activities and serve as a means to finance terrorism (IA, p. 14). For example, the Islamist profit from illicit trade in antiquities and archaeological treasures is estimated at US$150-200 million (IA, p. 15).

This note seeks to provide an initial analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the European Commission's impact assessment (IA) accompanying the above proposal, adopted on 13 July 2017 and now under discussion in Parliament and Council. The proposal aims to prevent the import and storage in the EU of cultural goods illicitly exported from a third country, in order to reduce trafficking in cultural goods, combat terrorism financing and protect cultural heritage, especially archaeological objects in source countries affected by armed conflict (explanatory memorandum of the proposal, p. 3). The market for antiques, ancient art and collectibles of older age constitutes 24 % of the global legal art and antiques market. The European market share accounts for 35 % of this global market, with the UK in the lead with 24 % (due to its large auction houses), followed by Switzerland (6 %), France (5 %), Germany (3 %), and Austria, Spain and the Netherlands (each around 0.5% respectively). Based on Eurostat figures, the estimated annual value of imports of classical antiquities and ancient art declared to EU customs may be around €3.7 billion per year (IA, p. 10). The IA explains that the current Common Nomenclature tariff heading (9705) used for import of antiquities and ancient art objects is rather broad, including also a variety of other goods of interest to collectors, making it difficult to estimate the total EU imports of cultural goods (IA, p. 10). Regarding the illicit trade of cultural goods, there are numerous underlying factors, which cannot be changed by this initiative, according to the IA (p. 11). These include, for example, poverty and military conflicts prevalent in many regions rich in cultural heritage sites, technological progress in various digging tools (such as metal-detectors, power drills, explosives), the market demand for such objects, mostly concentrated in Europe and North America, as well as cross-border transaction and e-commerce (IA, pp. 11-12). Estimates show that 80-90 % of global antiquities sales are of goods with illicit origin, and these sales are worth US$3 to 6 billion annually (IA, p. 12). The illicit sales of cultural goods often stem from terrorist activities and serve as a means to finance terrorism (IA, p. 14). For example, the Islamist profit from illicit trade in antiquities and archaeological treasures is estimated at US$150-200 million (IA, p. 15).