The European Union needs a common policy on imports of cultural artefacts from war-torn areas, Croatian Culture Minister Berislav Sipus said in Brussels on Tuesday after a meeting of the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council.
EU culture ministers on Tuesday adopted conclusions on culture in external affairs, with a focus on culture in development cooperation. One of the important issues was the smuggling of works of art and the destruction of cultural heritage in war-affected parts of the world.
"At the proposal of Italy, all the countries supported a declaration to step up the efforts, including the sending of peace-keeping forces, to physically protect (cultural heritage) in war-affected areas. Our position is that it is important that the European Union adopt new legal standards and frameworks on the import into the EU of cultural objects from third countries that are affected by war. There is no common European policy on this, which prevents us from controlling what is going on and what is getting across the borders," Sipus said.
During the debate, important issues were raised as to where cultural objects were taken, how they were smuggled and where the money earned was going.
Terrorists, in particular members of the Islamic State group, have destroyed several important world cultural heritage sites in recent months, targeting civilian and religious buildings and archaeological sites belonging to the common heritage of humanity. In that way they destabilise populations and destroy their identity. The looting of archaeological sites and the illicit trafficking of cultural artefacts are used as an instrument of war to finance terrorist activities.