The Government submitted to the Parliament the draft Act to amend the Act on the Return of Cultural Objects Unlawfully Removed from the Territory of a Member State of the European Union. The amendment specifies the conditions on how cultural objects that have been illegally taken from one Member State to another are returned to their original location.
Minister of Culture Indrek Saar explained that updating the legislation significantly enhances the protection of cultural objects. “Every year, up to 40,000 cultural objects are illegally being carried out of the Member States of the European Union. There have been only seven successful return proceedings over the past twenty years. This all confirms that the existing legislation is outdated,” Saar said.
The minister explained that in the future, each Member State will have the right to decide for themselves what their national treasures are, and impose restrictions on their exports. “From now on, the buyer bears the responsibility to verify whether the goods have not been stolen or otherwise unlawfully taken out of their homeland, for example. If it turns out that something is wrong, inter alia, the date of submission of the claim for return will be extended. All this ensures that cultural objects are better protected in a way that these objects are located where they actually should be,” Saar noted.
The draft Act enables to transpose the European Union directive into Estonian law, regulating the returning of cultural objects within the European Union on a uniform basis. One of the major amendments includes the implementation of the Internal Market Information System (IMI) in communications and other cooperation between the countries.
The parties to the implementation of the Act in Estonia include the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board and the Estonian Tax and Customs Board; the National Heritage Board of Estonia is responsible for communications with the other EU Member States. The introduction of the IMI System does not lead to any additional costs for Estonia, since it is financed by the European Commission. The deadline for transposing the directive is 18 December 2015 (inclusive).