Wednesday 11 April 2012

"Only" the United States?

As readers will be aware, the lobbyists for dealers in dugup antiquities, dealers themselves and collectors over in the US are whining that they are "discriminated against" by their own laws. "No other country has import restrictions on dugup antiquities" they claim, "only the US, it's not fair!!"

Well, this is patently untrue. Looking up something else today, I found a really good example which I thought worth sharing. Let's have a look at Switzerland.

The website of the Berne-based Federal Office of Culture, Specialized Body for the International Transfer of Cultural Property, on "Transfer of Cultural Property" should be of great interest to US collectors.  It shows that they are not alone in suffering from "Corrupt Gubn'mint Repression", as they would put it. The Swiss dealers and collectors are also treated by their own government like Americans. Scandal eh?

The Specialized Body for the International Transfer of Cultural Property at the Swiss Federal Office of Culture (FOC) has been entrusted since June 1, 2005 with the execution of the Federal Act on the International Transfer of Cultural Property (CPTA). The CPTA implements the 1970 UNESCO Convention into domestic law and regulates the import of cultural property into Switzerland, its transit and export and its repatriation from Switzerland as well as measures against illicit transfer. With this act, the Federal Government desires to make a contribution to the maintenance of the cultural heritage of mankind and prevent theft, looting, and illicit import and export of cultural property. 
In particular, the CPTA affects the following areas:
  • Demand for intercultural dialog and sustainable exchange (financial assistance for maintaining the movable cultural heritage and structural regulations)
  • Protection of Swiss cultural heritage (export of Confederation or cantons' cultural property)
  • Contribution to the protection of the cultural heritage of other states (import of cultural property into Switzerland and bilateral agreements)
  • Promotion of international exchanges between museums (return guarantee for museums)
  • Special duties of diligence for the art trade and auctioning business
As the federal center of competence, the Specialized Body is the point of contact for the public, involved circles and authorities. It represents Switzerland vis-à-vis foreign authorities on issues of the transfer of cultural property. The Specialized Body advises and coordinates work of the federal authorities and assumes an advisory role as well in cooperation with cantonal authorities (in particular, justice authorities and public prosecution, cantonal archeology authorities as well as cultural departments). [my emphasis and hyperlinks]
So this is the kind of national body required by the UNESCO Convention Arts 5, 10 and 14. In that the US has not followed the lead of Switzerland, I suppose US collectors should be grateful for that.

The sidebar on the left of the website is worth exploring. There is some good stuff there. Here I'd like just to signal, mainly for the benefit of attention-span-challenged US coineys who like playing the victim but cannot be bothered to check themselves, that the importation of cultural property into Switzerland is subject to more or less the same regulations as the US.

The procedure is set out in English in the FDHA/SFOC document 'Import, Transit and Export of cultural property'. Here it says that "the export [of cultural property of the types defined in the document] from a country that has ratified* the 1970 UNESCO Convention must be reported to customs officials at the point of entry" and any relevant paperwork shown. The import of cultural property of the types defined in the document into Switzerland from countries with which the country has a bilateral cultural property agreement must be accompanied by the relevant export permit - otherwise the importer is guilty of a crime (and that is a point where the Swiss dealers are at a disadvantage compared to their US counterparts). Now, "coins more than a hundred years old" and "of archaeological interest" are present on the list of items which may be restricted.

The countries with which Switzerland currently has bilateral agreements under the CPTA are similar to those the US co-operates with:
Italy (effective from April 2008)
Egypt (effective from Feb 2011 - neatly corresponding to the 'revolution')
Greece (effective from April 2011)
Colombia (effective from August 2011)
and 'emergency measures' on Iraq (established in 2003 but interestingly backdated to cover artefacts removed from August 2nd 1999)

It is worth noting that the case of Italy and Greece neatly contradict the US coineys assertion (again falsely claiming some kind of 'discrimination' against US collectors)  that no export licences are required to import antiquities from one European country to another.

One might ask, is there no end to US coiney nonsense?


Dorothy King said...

Well said!

And increasingly dealers & collectors are rebelling against Lobbying of this kind as they would rather be scrupulous ...

Paul Barford said...

Well, it seems to be just one group of selfish people spoiling it for everybody else.

Dorothy King said...

Several groups - and one can say the same about the other side of the argument ... I am wary of extremes

Paul Barford said...

You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment.

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