Stepping up protection for cultural heritage

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Fighting the illegal trade in cultural artefacts Stepping up protection for cultural heritage

Germany must make sure it does not become an international hub for trade in looted cultural objects, said Minister of State Monika Grütters at the opening of an international conference on illicit excavations and the illegal trade in cultural artefacts.

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"We will be ushering in a long overdue paradigm shift with an amendment to the law on the protection of cultural heritage," announced Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters in her opening remarks at the two-day conference "Cultural Heritage in Danger: Illicit excavations and trade" at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin.

Commitment to protect our cultural heritage

The experts from the worlds of politics, cultural affairs and research applauded as Monika Grütters stated unequivocally, "In future anyone wishing to import historical artefacts into Germany will need a valid export permit for every individual item from the country of origin, and this permit will have to be presented. This will also apply to tourists. "Souvenirs" from Egypt or Turkey are often no such thing, but an attempt to illegally export cultural assets protected by law – when the item in question is an original and not a cheap replica. These objects are part of our global cultural heritage that is today threatened by war and crises in many parts of the world."

Transparency in the trade in cultural goods

Inside Germany the antiques trade must be limited to objects of clear and legal provenance, demanded the Federal Government Commissioner. It is ridiculous, "that we in Germany spare no costs and effort to designate the provenance and production conditions of every egg before it makes it to the breakfast table, while a complete lack of transparency reigns in the way we deal with works of art or cultural assets worth millions".

In future the law will thus demand that for every item offered for sale it be diligently ascertained that adequate evidence of provenance is provided. "We are also working on a legal regulation to simplify the return of cultural artefacts that have been illicitly removed from the legitimate countries of origin."

Closing gaps in the protection of our cultural heritage

The new legal provisions are to close existing gaps in the protection of cultural assets in Germany. A pertinent report of the German government published in April 2013 recommended numerous changes to the law. Shortly after taking office, Federal Government Commissioner Monika Grütters thus drew up a new act of parliament, which also ensures compliance with the provisions of valid EU law. The bill will be presented in the first six months of 2015.

The international conference Cultural Heritage in Danger: Illicit excavations and trade is being hosted by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, the German Archaeological Institute and the German Association for Archeology at the Federal Foreign Office. For two days (11 and 12 December 2014) international experts and representatives of cultural bodies will focus on how to combat the illegal export and trade in cultural artefacts.