the Bundsrat, has today passed a law which passed the lower house on 23rd of June which is a great advance on what existed previously. This new 'Kulturgutschutzgesetz' is aimed at tackling illegal trafficking in looted antiquities and protecting German national heritage. As we know, it was strenuously (and shamefully) opposed by those that wanted to continue to take advantage of the existing laxity, so dealers and collectors mostly. Fortunately reason prevailed and they will just have to clean up their act. Some of them threatened to move their businesses to Bonkers Britain and elsewhere where the laws are laxer and they will be able to get away with more. Private collectors have also reportedly moved valuable works abroad before the law’s passage to avoid the new regulations - which makes you wonder just what it is they have bought, from whom and how.
For culture minister Monika Grütters, the law is Germany’s commitment “to live up to its responsibilities for mankind’s cultural heritage – nationally and internationally”. It is, she says, “an imperative” given the destruction of heritage in conflict zones like Iraq and Syria and evidence that terrorists are using revenue from the illegal trade in archaeological objects to fund violence. She argued that “Germany spends billions in tax money to promote culture. It is therefore a matter of course that we should protect and keep our own cultural heritage—including the few cultural objects that are deemed to have national value.” Under the Cultural Property Protection Law, any cultural goods above a certain value and age —which vary according to the type of object —can only be exported with permission from authorities in the 16 German states. Any archaeological items offered for sale need to be accompanied by an export licence from the country of origin, though collectors secured a last-minute exemption from this rule for coins. The law also eases the repatriation of looted articles to the country of origin.Of course the dugup coin dealers always want to be seen as an exception. That does not mean however that a coin exported from a country which requires export licences for them has been exported legally, even if German law does not require the showing of the document to bring a coin into the country It is still an illegally exported object, isn't it? Here is an interesting snippet:
The Action Alliance for Cultural Property Protection (AACPP), a newly formed organisation which lobbied the German parliament to reject the bill, has called for the immediate creation of an internet portal envisaged in the law to clarify what documentation is needed to import art objects from specific countries. “Without a database it is impossible to ensure legal security when importing cultural goods,” the group says in a statement.Aha, so the "legitimate trade" in Germany has functioned to date without such a database - suggesting that those in the business actually knew what the rules were. Anyway, the word is "export" not "import". Apparently not, which might explain why all those objects were quietly slipped out of the country before the law came into effect.
So when are other countries going to follow Germany’s commitment “to live up to its responsibilities for mankind’s cultural heritage – nationally and internationally” and introduce similar laws regulating illegal exports and keeping nationally important cultural property in the country (Hopi masjks for example). The United States of America for example?
Text of the new law.