The European Union introduces new rules for the importation of cultural heritage


Lawmakers hope that this measure will help in the fight against smuggling and block the way of financing terrorist organizations.

 The exposition of the TEFAF-2019 fair in Maastricht was largely devoted to the works of 17th-century masters. Photo: Tefaf

The European Union has adopted new rules for the importation of cultural heritage objects, designed to curb the illegal trade in them and involving, among other things, obtaining a license to import artifacts older than 250 years.

EU representatives say that these measures will “provide effective protection against illegal trade in cultural property and prevent its loss and destruction,” and will help prevent “the financing of terrorist organizations and money laundering by selling to the European Union buyers cultural property obtained by illegal means.”

The new rules apply only to items imported from non-EU countries. To obtain an import license, you must provide documents proving that the objects were exported from the country of origin by legal means. Information on imported cultural property will be stored in a centralized electronic database to which the authorities of all countries – participants of the European Union will have access. German Culture Minister Monika Grütters said that the new rules will come into force in the autumn of 2020.

However, the chairman of the International Association of Ancient Art Dealers, Vincent Gerling, believes that “the new rules contain a number of extremely controversial moments that will greatly affect the art market and collectors, if introduced.”

Until now, the countries of the European Union did not have general legislation regulating the importation of cultural heritage. The existing European laws in the field of trade in cultural property relate only to the export and return of objects illegally exported from the territory of the EU.