Saturday

25th Jun 2022

Exclusive

France seeks crackdown on EU art traffickers

  • A golden sarcophagus was looted from Egypt in 2011 (Photo: EUobserver)
Listen to article

Europe is a haven for stolen art trafficking and EU states should be doing more about it, France has said.

"Crime targeting cultural property has flourished during the pandemic," the French EU presidency warned in a memo about Trafficking of cultural goods on 20 January, seen by EUobserver.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

There were spikes in looting from Asia and the South Pacific, the Americas, and Africa in 2020, France noted, citing figures from a recent study by 72 Interpol countries.

"In 2020, 854,742 cultural objects were seized worldwide, including numismatic objects (coins, banknotes, or medals), paintings, sculptures, archaeological objects, and library materials. Two thirds of these objects were seized in Europe," France told fellow EU states.

"Most of the stolen antiquities seized in recent years in New York have also passed through the European Union," France added.

Paris highlighted a case, from 2020, of a golden sarcophagus looted from Egypt in 2011 which had been "exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art after having been 'laundered' in [EU] member states with false certificates".

"A heavy fine for tax evasion was also imposed in December 2021 on Galerie Phoenix, which is based in Geneva [Switzerland], but has numerous intermediaries in EU member states," France said.

The French presidency threw its weight behind EU Commission proposals to improve "traceability" in the single market's art sector.

The new measures should be "at least as ambitious" as EU anti-wildlife trafficking rules from 2016, it said.

"Over the past decade, the world has witnessed an alarming increase in the destruction of cultural heritage due to armed conflict," France said.

"The destruction and looting of heritage can be linked to the persecution of individuals and populations on cultural grounds. It can also be a problem for security and stability, as well as a war crime," it added.

Meanwhile, higher standards would "enable the European Union to assert itself today as a global player on a subject whose scale and importance have long been underestimated", France also said.

Under a 1970s UN convention, dealers in EU countries were already meant to "keep a register indicating the provenance of each cultural object" and "the name and address of the supplier", among other details, the French memo explained.

But "it is clear that not all EU member states have fully implemented the obligation," it added.

France proposed new EU customs rules to help "prevent goods that have illegally left their territory of origin (EU or third country) from being considered legal once they are marketed in a member state".

And it suggested creating a joint EU police "secretariat" for "coordination, monitoring, and analysis" on the black market by experts in the field.

MEPs urge inclusion of abortion rights in EU charter

MEPs have recalled their demands to include the right to legal and safe abortion into the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, a day after French president Emmanuel Macron pledged to open such a debate in the EU Council.

EU declares war on 'throw-away culture'

A new circular economy strategy was adopted on Wednesday intended to strengthen the EU's economy, empower consumers and protect the environment. However, it fails to set targets for the EU's so-called 'material footprint' and waste reduction for specific waste streams.

Pegasus spyware makers grilled by MEPs

"We will not continue to work with a customer that is targeting a journalist illegally," Chaim Gelfand, chief compliance officer of NSO Group told MEPs — but shed little light on EU governments' use of its Pegasus spyware.

Opinion

Romania — latest EU hotspot in backlash against LGBT rights

Romania isn't the only country portraying lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as a threat to children. From Poland and Hungary in EU, to reactionary movements around the world are prohibiting portrayals of LGBT people and families in schools.

News in Brief

  1. Possible terror attack halts gay pride in Norway
  2. Belgian PM: Gas shortage requires joint response
  3. Bulgarian MPs set conditions for lifting enlargement veto
  4. Latvia: We need a brigade-size Nato force to 'feel safe'
  5. Deal reached on controversial energy treaty reform
  6. EU carbon emissions from energy up 6% in 2021
  7. Germany step closer to gas rationing
  8. Albania: EU 'disgrace' at lack of enlargement progress

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  2. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  4. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBHow price increases affect construction workers
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic think tank examines influence of tech giants

Latest News

  1. EU summit's uncertainty in the face of economic war
  2. Next winter's gas looms large at EU summer summit
  3. Ukraine becomes EU candidate after 120 days of war
  4. How to enhance EU cybersecurity
  5. Competing options for EU enlargement
  6. MEPs demand to exit 'ecocide treaty' after reforms 'fail'
  7. Finland optimistic in Turkey talks over Nato
  8. Hungary's global-tax veto seen as 'blackmail'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us