EU regulation on the import of cultural goods adopted
This regulation has been adopted by the Parliament following a Proposal of the European Commission and various regulations targeting inter alia archeological goods originating from war zones in the Middle East. A vast majority of MPs voted the text, which still needs to be formally adopted by the EU Council.
This regulation will inter alia apply to manuscripts, incunabula, books and archives created or discovered outside the European Union. It therefore does not apply to goods of any nature created or discovered within the EU (which excludes notably Switzerland, Norway and tomorrow possible the United Kingdom). Most of its provisions will only be applicable as from 2025.
As a principle, the text prohibits any introduction of cultural goods in the EU which were removed from the country where they were created or discovered in breach of that country’s rules, it being specified that such country often differs from the exporting country. Needless to say that this prohibition seems particularly complex to apprehend and covers any cultural good, including a recent one or having a low value.
Manuscripts, incunabula or books more than 200 years old, a value higher than EUR 18,000 and originating from outside the EU will require an importer statement. This statement shall contain a description of the good, and a declaration that it has been exported from the country where it was created or discovered in accordance with such country’s rules at the time of the export. Such statement can only be replaced by a declaration focusing on another country (where the good has been located for more than 5 years) in case the country of discovery / creation cannot be reliably determined or if the good has been taken out from such country before April 24, 1972.
The sanctions of these various prohibitions and declaration mechanisms will have to be implemented by the States, but in practice the Regulation in itself imposes totally disproportionate obligations on the merchants and bibliophiles.
The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers and many national associations welcome the amendments made to the Commission's text, which originally applied to all goods over 250 years, even European. ILAB ran a strong campaign and asked for amendments of the original proposal.
However, the text remains a major obstacle to trade, a major risk for the security of transactions and an undue limitation to the free diffusion of culture.
Text by Philippe Marchiset, legal advisor to ILAB in the campaign against the regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the import of cultural goods (COM(2017)0375 – C8-0227/2017 – 2017/0158(COD))
Avocat au Barreau de Paris
Chargé de cours à Paris III - Sorbonne Nouvelle
2 rue Saint-Florentin, 75001 Paris