European legislation

The European Union (EU) has developed several regulations for the protection of   European cultural heritage.

Council Regulation (EC) No 116/2009 of 18 December 2008 on the export of cultural goods provides rules for the export of 15 categories of cultural goods, depending on their age and financial value. It ensures that uniform controls are carried out on these exports at the external borders of the EU.

Furthermore, on 15 May 2014  Directive 2014/60/EU on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a Member State was adopted.  The Directive foresees in a return procedure and cooperation between the authorities in the EU member states. Directive 2014/60/EU is a revision of Council Directive 93/7/EEC. The most important revisions are in the field of the definition of cultural heritage, the extension of the time-limit for initiating return proceedings and the proof of a possessor of a cultural object that due care and attention were exercised when acquiring the object for the purpose of obtaining a compensation when the return is ordered. 

On 17 April 2019 Council Regulation (EC) 2019/880 was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. This Regulation must contribute to the protection of cultural goods against illicit trade, loss or destruction. It is the first EU instrument that regulates the import and the introduction of cultural goods. The Regulation contains common rules for the trade in cultural goods which have an origin in countries outside the EU.

Regulation (EU) 2021/1079 of 24 June 2021, lays down detailed rules for implementing certain provisions of Regulation (EU) 2019/880, like safekeeping, the temporary admission of cultural goods, procedural rules on the processing of applications for import licences and supporting documents to prove licit provenance in an import licence application and for the importer statement.

In December 2020 Article 3(1) of the Regulation has come into force, the prohibition on the introduction and import of cultural goods which are mentioned in Annex A of the Regulation. In the middle of 2025 Article 4 (Import licence) and Article 5 (Importer statement) will come into force in the Netherlands. The date of commencement depends a.o. on the introduction of an electronic licensing system.

The Regulation is included in the Heritage Act.

In the event of doubt as to whether an object’s origin is lawful please contact the Information and Heritage Inspectorate, as they are the competent authority in the Netherlands in this field. 

The English translation of the Heritage Act( 2016).