France organizes a conference to strengthen EU cooperation against the illicit trafficking of cultural property

On February 1, 2022, with the participation of UNESCO, France organized the “Conference for the strengthening of European cooperation against the illicit trafficking of cultural property” at the Louvre Museum. The event was part of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), which has made this issue one of the priorities of its European agenda for the first half of 2022.

This commitment underlines the importance of the concerns of the Member States of the European Union to combat this scourge and to intensify initiatives for better protection of movable cultural heritage originating in or circulating in the EU, one of the largest destination markets. and transit to the world for cultural goods goods.

In his speech at the opening ceremony, Ernesto Ottone R., Assistant Director-General for Culture at UNESCO, said: “If illicit trafficking must indeed be combated at its source, action must also be taken demand. Potential buyers should be aware of the devastating effects of this traffic. They must be aware that buying a looted object means taking the risk of directly or indirectly participating in money laundering and the financing of criminal and terrorist organizations”.

The event brought together the main European and international players involved in the preservation of cultural heritage around three key issues: new technologies and innovative tools to fight against illicit trafficking; dialogue with professionals and regulation of the art market within the EU; and raising awareness of this scourge among the general public, and in particular young people. This last subject was discussed during a round table moderated by Lazare Eloundou Assomo, Director of World Heritage at UNESCO. The debates contribute to the ongoing exchange, in view of the informal Council of Ministers of Culture in Angers (7 and 8 March 2022) and the action plan to combat illicit trafficking drawn up by the European Commission in 2022.

Also, throughout the month of February, the Louvre Museum exhibits sculptures exported illegally and seized by French Customs, in order to alert the public to the issues of heritage in danger.

UNESCO, which has a long history of cooperation with the EU, welcomes this strong new commitment from France, which unites its European partners in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property.

Finally, it should be noted that UNESCO and the EU are jointly organizing concrete actions to strengthen the material and human resources to combat this problem, in particular the EU-UNESCO project to strengthen the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property. (ongoing, 2019-2022) and the September 14 International Conference.

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