The illicit export and import of cultural property is a complex, vast and multifaceted issue. It involves multiple parties and it can serve different purposes. It is clear that any meaningful attempt to address this problem and to achieve an effective protection of cultural heritage requires coordinated, parallel action at the national, European and international levels. In this sense, EU-level protection of national treasures can never be fully effective if viewed as a self-standing system. As Prott has put it, 'it is only by imaginative legal thinking that we can attempt to meet the challenges of the future in a world which changes rapidly and in which threats to valued parts of our inheritance can develop far more quickly than settled law can be stretched to accommodate' (Prott, 1989: 277). In order to withstand the dangers looming over cultural heritage, there is a need to be constantly alert to the possibility of change and to regularly revisit the institutional landscape of culture, putting emphasis on the development of interdisciplinary and inter-state synergies. In addition to a comprehensive legal framework, non-legal measures such as raising the awareness of the public and enhancing the visi- bility/traceability of cultural objects (through digitisation, meticulous cataloguing, setting up of databases of stolen treasures and so on) are needed to improve the protection of cultural heritage.


  • 1. See ECJ, Case 155/1982, Commission v. Belgium [1983] ECR 531, para. 12.
  • 2. See ECJ, Case 227/82, Leendert van Bennekom [1983] ECR 3883, para. 40.
  • 3. ECJ, Case 7/68, Commission v. Italy [1968] ECR 42, para. 6.
  • 4. French Conseil d'Etat, Ministre de la Culture v. Consorts Genty, judgement of 7 October 1987.
  • 5. ECJ, Case C-531/07, Fachverband der Buch- und Medienwirtschaft v. LIBRO Handelsgesellschaft mbH [2009] ECR I-3717.
  • 6. Council (1996, 2001, 2003).
  • 7. See European Commission (1993a). See also European Commission (2004a).
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