French antique art dealers lobby against EU rules that threaten trade

Antique art dealers in France are campaigning against forthcoming EU regulations that aim to restrict illicit imports of cultural artefacts, but which critics say risk criminalising legitimate traders too.

The European Commission says that the new rules will prevent the import of looted cultural goods that finance terrorism.

The regulation requires new documentation for imported archaeological, antique and art objects found or made outside the EU.

France's National Union of Antiques Dealers (SNA) gave a press conference in Paris last month to push back against what speakers called "unreasonable and disproportionate" criteria.

The SNA warns that the new rules, in effect from mid-2025, will have a "dramatic and damaging impact" on the EU’s art market.

They also said that the legal onus for highly accurate provenance will unfairly criminalise many in the trade.

'Illicit unless proven otherwise'

According to UK-based consultant and adviser to art trade associations Ivan Macquisten, the law “deems an imported item illicit, unless proven otherwise”.

He adds that this means a “reversal of the burden of proof”, effectively scrapping common property law that assumes the owner’s good faith.

The SNA, which lobbies on behalf of around 300 French antique and art dealers, said that the regulation will also make it difficult for owners to donate cultural objects – like fossils, antiquities, texts and art – to museums.

Owners of items over 200 years old that are valued above €18,000 will need an "importer statement". They’ll also need an import licence for other items over 250 years old.

(with newswires)


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