On 10 November the Council of Ministers for the Internal Market of the EEC reached agreement on two measures regarding the circulation of cultural goods as from 1993. The disappearance of customs’ posts in that date between the member States had caused concern that there would be a haemorrage of national treasures from country to country and out of the EEC itself.
The Regulation (for details see p. 33) concerns the export of cultural goods from the EEC. The Directive concerns the return of cultural goods which have been unlawfully removed from another member State. The Regulation enters into force after the European Parliament has debated it, which should be no later than 31 March 1993, but the Directive is delayed until October in response to a request by the Netherlands, which says that is not ready yet with its internal laws. The Directive defines cultural goods as those classified as a national treasure under national legislation and also falling within the limits of a defined set of categories with age and value limits, which are the same as for the Regulation (see p.33). These were highly controversial so far as the implementation of the Regulation is concerned, with the British Department of National Heritage fearing an increase by 250,000 in export documents required by the antiquities trade, as all archaeological goods, even of no value, are required to have export papers. At the last moment the U.K. managed to push through an optional exemption of archaeological goods such as coins.
Now the question is whether the U.K. government will bring the age and value limits in force under the current British export procedures into line with the EEC limits
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Agreement reached on exports and restitution'