In the Communication on the Action Plan against trafficking of cultural goods adopted on 13 December 2022, the European Commission proposes a list of activities aiming to curb trafficking in cultural objects. The action plan focuses on four strategic objectives, for an effective and comprehensive response. The first of these objectives aims to improve prevention and detection of crimes by market participants and cultural heritage institutions. The following three objectives focus on strengthening of the enforcement authorities’ capacities, external cooperation on the matter and raising awareness amongst the wider public.

When it comes to the first objective, the Action Plan recognises that the the art market players, collectors and cultural heritage institutions can help to prevent and detect crime related to cultural goods. This is because they are at particular risk of coming across trafficked cultural goods or of becoming victims of property crime. The Action Plan underlines that it is essential that these stakeholders know the applicable legislation and other non-legislative tools that aim to prevent and detect such crimes. On the other hand, it is also important that the Commission is aware of the challenges that the market participants may face while implementing these rules.

Therefore, the Action Plan announces the launch of a dialogue with the art market, in close cooperation with UNESCO, on the issues related to the protection and trade of cultural goods in the single market. With a view to providing a transparent framework for this dialogue, the Directorate General for Education, Sports, Youth and Culture (‘DG EAC’) of the European Commission has taken the initiative to set up a working group on dialogue with the art market as a sub-group to the Commission expert group ‘Cultural Heritage Forum’. The sub-group shall report to the Cultural Heritage Forum. The sub-group will be a platform for exchange of information on policies, actions, and legislation related to the protection and commercial transactions in cultural goods in the single market. Cultural goods are understood as categories of cultural property mentioned in Article 1 of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property of 1970 (“UNESCO 1970 Convention”).
The relevant territory covers the single market – the 27 EU Member States, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein. However, it is acknowledged that many art market participants conclude transactions outside of the single market, as the wider, global trade in cultural goods is not limited to this territory.

The sub-group’s tasks shall be:
(a) to exchange information between the Commission and stakeholders operating in the area of trading in cultural goods on questions relating to the development of international, European and national legislations, programmes and policies related to the protection and trade of cultural goods in the single market;
(b) whenever appropriate, to provide the Commission with experts reports, opinions and analysis regarding to EU legislation, EU funding programmes and policies related to the protection and trade of cultural goods in the single market;
(c) to bring about an exchange of experience and good practices implemented by the art market participants and other relevant bodies related to the protection and trade of cultural goods in the single market.

For more information please visit the website of the European Commission.