November 9, 2017 – On September 24, 2017, the German Bundestag elections took place. The ruling parties suffered tremendous losses. The CDU/CSU lost 8.6%, the SPD 5.2%. The extent to which this is due to the communication of the new Law on the Protection of Cultural Property having been more than inadequate must remain an open question. At any rate, in its election program the Free Democratic Party (FDP) picked up on the German collectors’ cause. Since FDP representatives are currently negotiating with the CDU/CSU and the Greens over a government coalition, the collectors have a good chance that this law will be evaluated soon. It is to be hoped that in the process the all too unrealistic provisions will be abolished for good.
The “effects of the Law on the Protection of Cultural Property on the art trade” are currently a regular item on the agenda in the official CDU papers that list the topics for the exploratory talks in the field of culture.
The complex regulations governing the import, the placing on the market and the export of cultural property are so hard to understand that any ordinary collector and most dealers abroad stand no chance of understanding them anyway. As a matter of fact, we at CoinsWeekly keep receiving inquiries about details of the process required. Unfortunately, we cannot provide an answer either, for we have neither the legal training nor the practical know-how. This is a good example of the fact that even well-meaning companies that are deeply anchored in the scene are at a loss when it comes to the new law, providing they are not dealing with the import and export of coins and objects of monetary history on a daily basis.
Therefore, the “Aktionsbündnis Kulturgutschutz” has lodged a complaint against Germany with the European Commission. It is precisely the complete traceability of the legal export from the country of origin – due upon importation – that is unacceptable. When it comes to coins, for instance, more often than not the country of origin is not even known. The German art trade is thus at a disadvantage compared to its colleagues throughout the world and has already suffered serious damage indeed. It is not without good reason that many companies have opened branches abroad by now.
It is the same with the much too low value limits for exports subject to licensing. They are unrealistic, and far too many objects have to undergo the elaborate process of an academic evaluation whether or not they classify as German cultural heritage. In practice, this means that the authorities in charge cannot grant this authorization by the deadline set by law. International buyers of objects at a German auction thus often have to wait quite a long time for their purchase to be delivered.
Even if German practice proved this law to be unfit for curbing the art loss in warring countries, it is alarming that the European Union simultaneously discusses the introduction of similar provisions for all Member States.
Heavily condemned by the British art trade, Brexit thus becomes a guarantee for the London art market. For, if the European Union was to pass laws like these, Britain would only be too willing to accommodate all the European art dealers. After all, everybody who has some experience with it considers the English model of the Treasure Trove Act and the Portable Antiquities Scheme a shining example of how archaeological and historical knowledge can be increased through archaeologists and scientists, traders and collectors, private and state-paid enthusiasts working together and not against each other.
To read the paper from November 1, 2017, with the CDU summary of all the topics to be discussed, click here. Under the heading “Kultur”, the KGSG is item #4 on the list.
The unanimous conclusion reached by all reports on the allegations that the European art trade funded terrorism can be read in this IADAA summary.