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Monika Grütters plays the European card in quarrel over Cultural Heritage

by Ursula Kampmann
translated by Annika Backe

December 17, 2015 – After Monika Grütters has been severely criticized by associations of collectors and dealers, by the world of art and museums for her new legislation on the Protection of Cultural Heritage, and after both the Regulatory Impact Unit and the Federal Council have expressed serious concerns, the Minister returns to what she officially takes as a justification for her new law. After all, she is obliged to implement an EU directive until December 18, 2015. This, however, seems almost impossible for her to achieve. 

In a press release from December 8, 2015, the German Government announced that the Commissioner of the Federal Government for Culture and Media, Monika Grütters, lined up with her French and Italian colleague. They have jointly written a letter in which they state that it would be essential “that we act in concert in regards to the current political discussion on the Protection of Cultural Heritage, both at EU and international level.”

Monika Grütters continues: “At the Council of Ministers, EU Culture Commissioner Tibor Navracsics has also expressly stated that, in terms of the import of cultural heritage at EU level, there are existing legal loopholes which need to be closed. It is gratifying to note that it is precisely our German efforts to establish stricter import controls in the framework of the revision of the amendment of the Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage which are met with a strong response at EU level. Germany can make an important contribution here. The reason is that our law stipulates that, as a general rule in the future, particularly the import of archaeological heritage into Germany will need to have a valid export license of the relevant country of origin. Most of the Member States concerned provide for such an authorization to export. Besides, there will also be legal regulations which will facilitate the return of illegally exported cultural goods to the country of origin. It encourages us that the French president, François Hollande, already in his speech before the 38th UNESCO General Conference in Paris on November 17 on the occasion of the celebrations to mark the founding of the UNESCO 70 years ago, has announced a French plan of action for a more effective Protection of Cultural Heritage.”

However, Mrs Grütters does not remotely mention the fact that the action plan for a more effective Protection of Cultural Heritage, which was developed by Jean-Luc Martinez, Director of the Louvre, and which François Hollande is drawing upon, contains mainly proposals as to how better protect the objects on site in regards to combatting illicit trade. A possible reason might be that most of the, very reasonable proposals of Jean-Luc Martinez come at a price, while it takes no money at all to adopt laws and pass the resulting costs on to the citizens and the Federal States. And we have learned that Mrs Grütters does not really like spending money on culture.

Please find the press release of the German Federal Government about the joint letter of the Ministers of Culture of Germany, France, and Italy here.



And here you will find the opinion of the Federal Council on the new Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage.

Please find the opinion of the national Regulatory Impact Unit here. It contains the figures calculated by an official authority which estimates the increase in the costs for the free economy, induced by the increased red tape that comes with the Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage, at 2,743,175 euros per year.
One can only applaud the factual summary: “The outline of the compliance costs of the regulatory initiative is not traceable in every respect. Above all, the announced evaluation should take account of the previously only estimated exports into the internal market and third countries as well as the costs for the economy induced by the conditions as to testing and the production of evidence.”

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