II EU Internal Policies and Culture

The Protection of National Treasures in the EU Single Market

Tania Kyriakou

Introduction

It is estimated that around 40,000 cultural objects are illegally removed from European Union (EU or the Union) countries every year and only a very small number of them are ever returned (European Parliament, 2014). Art theft and trade of stolen art are growing and they are often linked with organised crime. The creation of a single, borderless market has been the indisputable cornerstone of European integration. The abolition of physical checks at the internal borders of the Union, necessary for the completion of the single market, has in many ways facilitated art theft and the laundering of stolen art and artefacts (Viantro, 1993: 1166). However, Union law has consistently recognised, throughout the development of the European project, the need for protection of the national treasures of member states.

This chapter presents the legal measures taken at EU level with the aim to reconcile the free movement of goods with the protection of national treasures and provides an evaluation of their impact. The assessment mainly focuses on the effectiveness of the existing legal framework to discourage the unlawful removal of objects, to secure restitution of unlawfully removed treasures and to create synergies between the various national authorities responsible for the implementation of the respective provisions.

The next section explores the major themes surrounding the protection of national treasures and cultural goods in the EU. The section that follows discusses the control of the export of cultural goods as established by Regulation 3911/1992, which, after certain amendments, was later codified as Regulation 116/2009, and the EU provisions for the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a member state, focusing on Directive 93/7, recently recast as Directive 2014/60. The changes put forward by the new Directive (to be incorporated into the national legal systems by 18 December 2015) receive particular attention. The analysis concludes by emphasising the need to combine a comprehensive legal framework with the appropriate nonlegal measures in order to safeguard member states' national treasures.

 
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