EU legislation and initiatives
May 14 2018 | CINOA

CINOA Position paper summary on EU proposal for regulation on the Import of Cultural Goods

January 2018

What is the issue?  

On 13 July 2017, the European Commission introduced a proposal for a regulation on the import of cultural goods which aims primarily to undermine terrorism financing. However, this text may have a negative impact on the European art trade and could dry up the imports of cultural goods.  

CINOA role?  

CINOA is the principal international confederation of Art & Antique dealer associations ( Established in 1935, CINOA is the global leader in representing the international art and antiques trade, setting benchmark standards for the industry including the world-wide adoption of The CINOA Code of Ethics. Affiliated dealers, from 19 European leading dealer associations, cover a wide array of specialties from antiquities to contemporary art.

CINOA actively campaigns on major issues affecting the industry, while working hard on improving standards further in the interests of best practice, transparency and consumer protection. No other industry body within the international art and antiques market offers such an extensive reach or one-stop access to the world’s first rank of trade professionals. CINOA responds proactively to dealers’ concerns and offers international support to the CINOA dealer associations. Members benefit from shared knowledge and an international network of experts on art, antiques and related matters.  

What is CINOA’s position on the text?  

CINOA acknowledges the need to fight against terrorism; however, it believes that the proposal – if too complex – could dry up the imports of cultural goods and have a strong economic impact on relatively small actors.

The ongoing debate over how best to protect the world’s cultural heritage has taken an unfortunate turn with far reaching consequences. Genuine concern for cultural heritage preservation has been replaced with politically driven calls to address the issue of terrorist funding from trade in cultural property.  Despite mounting evidence that such trade is not a significant source of terrorist funding, anti-trade interest groups and politicians have rushed to implement solutions to a problem that has, thus far, been undetectable in the EU and the US.  

Unsupported claims of billions in terrorist revenue from the trade in antiquities have persuaded lawmakers to support legislative restrictions on broad categories of cultural property carrying civil and criminal penalties and authorizing more aggressive enforcement. While we should consider all methods of fighting terrorism, we must not adopt measures that do more harm than good or which give only a false sense of security.

If cultural property policy making continues in this direction the impact on the legitimate art and antiques trade, museums, collectors, and ultimately, the public will be permanent and severely damaging.  In respect of museums, we wish to point out that the majority of objects in museums, are there, not because they were purchased by the relevant institution, but because they were accepted as gifts from wealthy and generous collectors. Being prevented from forming important collections, collectors will subsequently no longer be gifting collections containing important cultural goods to museums.


Considering the outlined lack of clarity of a number of elements, that is to say:

  • the text creates an unfounded link between art dealing and terrorism financing;
  • the proposal suggests that all pre-1767 imported items require additional standardised documentation, regardless of their value or cultural significance is arbitrary and lacks proportionality;
  • the arbitrary 250 year cut off for non-archaeological material;
  • the lack of clear details on obtaining an import licence prior to the existence of export licenses;
  • the lack of harmonised rules for the export and import of cultural goods;
  • the lack of a uniform list of categories and definitions for all import and export legislations,

CINOA suggest to reconsider the proposal for a regulation on the import of cultural goods.

CINOA promotes a regulation which is defending the European Art market and European Art & Antique dealers. The regulation should in any case secure trade stability and, therefore, adopt an approach in favour of European Art business. This is particularly important because Art dealers are relatively small in size but numerous actors which need to be protected from a strong negative economic impact.