Council of Europe adopts Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property

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June 1, 2017 – On May 3, 2017, the Council of Europe has adopted a convention that aims to establish uniform rules on offences relating to cultural property. 

Internationally binding legislation

The convention “creates binding minimum standards for criminal law rules relating to the destruction, looting and the illicit trade in cultural property. The new convention is part of the measures taken by the Council of Europe to intensify the fight against international terrorism and organized crime. … It contains, inter alia, the obligation to prosecute the theft of cultural property, the unlawful excavation, the illicit import and export of stolen goods as well the trade in stolen, and illicitly exported or imported cultural property.” This is a translation of how the German Federal Government summarizes the new agreement in a press statement. 

“Blood Antiquities Convention”

The convention (also known as “Blood Antiquities Convention”), as much as the new German legislation (Law on the Protection of Cultural Property), is based on the assumption that the trade in antiquities constitutes a major source of funding terrorism and is riddled with illegal actions. In this context, Germany is considered an important hub for the international trade in cultural property. 

Outdated facts

The new convention is thus based on assumptions that have long been proven to be inaccurate, as evidenced by the press review of the German coalition for action ‘Aktionsbündnis Kulturgutschutz’. 

Strengthening the German Law on the Protection of Cultural Property

German Minister of State for Culture and Media, Monika Grütters, who had driven Germany’s new law forward, praised the convention presented by the Council of Europe as “a highly important signal to strengthen the Protection of Cultural Property on an international level, but also a very fine and significant confirmation of the new German Law on the Protection of Cultural Property – particularly in regards of the export and import regulations and due diligence. Having been enforced since August 6, 2016, the law contains exactly the same body of rules the Council of Europe provides for”. 

The convention is to be formerly signed during the Session of the Committee of Ministers, taking place in Nicosia (Cyprus) on May 19, 2017. As soon as a minimum of five member states have signed the convention and acceded to the agreement, the convention will be enforced. 

Numerous articles on this topic are collected in our archive section on Cultural Property Issues.

You can read the convention’s original wording on the Council of Europe’s website.