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Towards an anti – cultural goods laundering regulation in the European Union

I. Introduction

Some countries in Europe have a strong industry devoted to cultural goods. Particularly, United Kingdom attracts a meaningful number of all cultural goods transactions that take place in the world.

The art market is a prime example of British achievement in a highly competitive global environment. Britain has 29% of the global art and antiques market and is the second largest market in the world, second in size only to the United States. The British art and antiques market generated £7.7 billion in sales and directly supported over 60,000 jobs in 2009.

This success is based, above all, on a fiscal and regulatory environment that has enabled the UK to attract the greatest works of art for sale because this market is highly dependent on crossborder trade: in 2009 art to the value of £2 billion was imported into the UK and exports totalled £2.2 billion[1].

In contrast to other regulations in force in Continental Law, like Spanish, French or Italian ones, which are characterized by rigidity, UK legislation on cultural goods are more flexible and less protective than the first ones.

The comparative chart below –Comparative Chart 1- depicts the differences between Spanish and English Regulations on Cultural Goods and explains itself why the English market of works of art is so relevant in the world.

Public opinion is often alarmed when media discover that important cultural goods coming from plundering are sold almost freely in foreign countries losing their track forever. In case of archeological items, the plundering is specially detrimental. The looting in archaeological digs before the objects have been classified and catalogued makes almost impossible to identify the origin of the items. So they arrive to foreign countries to be sold in the market, by direct sale or at auction, and the return to the origin countries becomes improbable.

How can it happen so easily? Is the regulation currently in force sufficient to fight against the illicit traffic of cultural goods?

Comparative chart 1

    UNITED KINGDOM SPAIN
  NATIONAL TRADE GENERAL RULE -Free trade -Right of first offer -Right of repurchase
EXCEPTIONS -Treasure finds Free trade:  Goods non registered in Public Registries created for this purpose (Inventario General de Bienes Muebles e Registro de Bienes de Interés Cultural)
  INTERNATIONAL TRADE EXPORT LICENSE -Certain cultural objects more than 50 years of age and valued above specified financial thresholds. -For those cultural goods belonging to Spanish Heritage and: -More than 100 years of age -or registered in Inventario General de Bienes Muebles or in the process to be included in it. -Inexportable goods: Cultural goods registered in Registro General de Bienes de Interés Cultural  or in the process to be included in it.
TERM TO GRANT -In case it is considered the object does not satisfy any of the Waverley criteria, the licence can be granted in about 2 weeks. About 3 months.
CRITERIA TO GRANT An object does not satisfy any of the Waverley criteria. -History -Aesthetics -Scholarship -Undetermined criteria
IRREVOCABLE OFFER TO ACQUIRE THE CULTURAL GOOD NO. If export license is refused applicant continues being owner. YES. State can acquire the cultural goods within the term of 3 months from the day of application submit in exchange for paying the value declared by the applicant.
INFRIDGEMENT -Subject to penalties including criminal prosecution under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979. -Subject to seizure under the provisions of the same Act. -Subject to penalties including criminal prosecution under Criminal Code. -Subject to seizure under Spanish Heritage Act (Ley 16/1985, de 25 de junio, del Patrimonio Histórico Español)

II. Remedies currently in force

Remedies created to fight against irregular traffic of cultural goods have shown insufficient due to several reasons:

As regards to Spanish Law and the return of cultural goods unlawfully removed from the Spanish territory, the deficiencies assessed have been analyzed in my recent article “El comercio de bienes culturales de ilícita procedencia o titularidad controvertida: control, reclamación e impunidad”, publicized in the legal journal Noticias Jurídicas[5].

III. Possible solutions

Possible solutions can be studied from several perspectives:

 

Antonio Pedro Rodríguez Bernal

Lawyer. Recognised specialist in the law applicable to the art market, historical heritage and antiques. He participates in the International Research Project “Right and Beauty. From Common Good to Universal Good” at the Università della Calabria (Italy)

 

Notes:

[1] ARTS ECONOMICS 2009. The British Art Market. A Winning Global Entrepôt. Lapada: The Association of Art & Antiques Dealers [en línea]. [Consulta: 9 enero 2015]. Disponible en: http://www.lapada.org/public/The_British_art_Market.pdf.

[2] COMISIÓN EUROPEA, 2000. Informe de la Comisión al Consejo, al Parlamento Europeo y al Comité Económico y Social sobre la aplicación del Reglamento (CEE) n° 3911/92 del Consejo relativo a la exportación de bienes culturales y de la Directiva 93/7/CEE del Consejo relativa a la restitución de bienes culturales que hayan salido de forma ilegal del territorio de un Estado miembro [en línea]. 25 mayo 2000. S.l.: s.n. [Consulta: 6 enero 2015]. Disponible en: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/ES/ALL/?uri=CELEX:52000DC0325. /* COM/2000/0325 final /; COMISIÓN EUROPEA, 2005. Informe de la Comisión al Consejo, al Parlamento Europeo y al Comité Económico y Social Europeo – Segundo informe sobre la aplicación de la Directiva 93/7/CEE del Consejo, relativa a la restitución de bienes culturales que hayan salido de forma ilegal del territorio de un Estado miembro [en línea]. 21 diciembre 2005. S.l.: s.n. [Consulta: 6 enero 2015]. Disponible en: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/ES/ALL/?uri=CELEX:52005DC0675. / COM/2005/0675 final /; COMISIÓN EUROPEA, 2009. Informe de la Comisión al Consejo, al Parlamento Europeo y al Comité Económico y Social Europeo – Tercer informe sobre la aplicación de la Directiva 93/7/CEE del Consejo, relativa a la restitución de bienes culturales que hayan salido de forma ilegal del territorio de un Estado miembro [en línea]. 30 julio 2009. S.l.: s.n. [Consulta: 6 enero 2015]. Disponible en: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/ES/ALL/?uri=CELEX:52009DC0408. / COM/2009/0408 final */

[3] OJ L 39, 10.2.2009, p. 1–7.

[4] Official Journal L 074, 27/03/1993 P. 0074 – 0079. New Directive has been passed in 2014 and will entry in force in 2015: Directive 2014/60/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a Member State and amending Regulation (EU) No 1024/2012, Official Journal L 159/1, 28.5.2014.

[5] Vid. http://noticias.juridicas.com/

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