Directive EU 2014/60 finally implemented in Belgian law
Published on 23/05/2016
Belgium has finally implemented the EU Directive 2014/60 of 15 May 2014 on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a Member State(*) in Belgian law by an amending law published on 23 May 2016(**). The deadline for implementation imposed by the Directive expired on 18 December 2015. Upon advice from the Council of State, the amending law has not been made retro-active. It enters into force 14 days after its publication (that is on 7 June 2016).
In accordance with the new directive (which is a recast of the prior Directive 93/7/EEC of 15 March 1993 on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a Member State), the new law brings the following changes to the existing regime:
- First, the new law extends the scope of application of the European restitution regime to any cultural object classified or defined by a Member State under national legislation or administrative procedures as a national treasure possessing artistic, historic or archaeological value within the meaning of Article 36 TFEU.
- Next, the mandatory use of the Internal Market Information System (‘IMI’) should require the central authorities to cooperate efficiently with each other and to exchange information relating to unlawfully removed cultural objects.
- Further, the time-limit for checking whether the cultural object found in another Member State is a cultural object within the meaning of the directive, is extended to six months.
- The most important changes are of substance:
- the time-limit for bringing return proceedings is extended to three years after the Member State from whose territory the cultural object was unlawfully removed became aware of the location of the cultural object and of the identity of its possessor or holder; and
- the burden of proof for the possessor is reversed: in order to qualify for compensation, the possessor must provide proof that he exercised due care and attention (‘due diligence’) in acquiring the object.
Finally, the annex with the common categories of cultural objects, that formed part of the Directive 93/7 as well as of the Belgian law of 28 October 1996, is likewise abolished.
(*) Directive 2014/60/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a Member State and amending Regulation (EU) No 1024/2012 (Recast).
(**) The law of 4 May 2016 amending the law of 28 October 1996 on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of certain foreign states.