New rules to clamp down on the illegal import and trafficking of cultural goods from outside the EU, often linked to terrorist financing and other criminal activity, have been tabled by the European Commission.
The proposal marks one of the final steps set out in the Commission’s action plan to strengthen the fight against terrorism financing. It will stop this traffic in its tracks by banning the import into the EU of cultural goods exported illegally from their home countries. It comes just days after the Hamburg G20 called on countries to tackle terrorist finance, including the looting and smuggling of antiquities.
“Money is oxygen to terrorist organisations such as Daesh [the Arabic acronym for Islamic State],” said Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans. “We are taking action to cut off each of their sources of financing. This includes the trade of cultural goods, as terrorists derive funding from the looting of archaeological sites and the illegal sale of cultural objects. By preventing them from entering the EU, we can help dry up this source of income.”
Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “The illegal trafficking of cultural goods is an issue of grave concern. Such activity can wreak serious damage on the cultural heritage of those countries that can least afford to protect their interests. Today’s proposal equips customs authorities with the right tools to ensure the EU market is closed for such goods.”
In turn, Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, stressed that the looting and illicit trafficking of cultural goods deprives citizens of affected countries of a part of their cultural identity and destroys the cultural heritage of humankind.
“Today we are demonstrating the Commission’s commitment to protecting this global heritage, which we will showcase during the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage,” he said.
According to a European Commission press release, the EU lacks a general framework for the import of cultural goods. As such, current rules can be exploited by unscrupulous exporters and importers who can use the profits to fund illegal activities such as terrorism.
The proposal for a Regulation will now be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. The Commission says it hopes this will be swiftly adopted in the co-decision process.