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The EU is taking steps to clamp down on the illicit trafficking in cultural goods. EU ambassadors today agreed the Council’s position on a draft regulation  which will prevent the import and storage in the EU of cultural goods illegally exported from a non-EU country.

These new rules will not only preserve humanity’s cultural heritage, in particular archaeological objects in countries affected by armed conflict, but will also prevent the financing of terrorist activities through such trafficking.

The regulation covers cultural goods that are :

  • created or discovered outside the EU;
  • due to be released in free circulation or to be placed under a customs procedure other than transit;
  • older than 250 years;
  • worth at least €10 000.

Depending on the extent to which they are vulnerable to pillage and destruction, cultural works are divided into two categories under the draft regulation.. The most vulnerable, such as archaeological objects, elements of monuments and rare manuscripts, will require a special licence issued by an EU country. This will be issued upon proof by the importer that the goods in question have been lawfully exported from their country of origin. Others, considered less vulnerable, will be imported on the basis of a simple statement by the importer that the goods in question have been lawfully exported.

Information on cases where import licences have been granted and importer statements issued will be stored in a centralised electronic data base, which will be set up by the Commission and made accessible to all national authorities in the EU.

The proposed regulation complements  the existing EU legal framework on trade in cultural goods, which until now has only included legislation covering the export of cultural goods and the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of an EU country.