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The directive that aims to improve the effectiveness of mechanisms for the return of illegally exported cultural objects was approved by the European Parliament's Committee on Culture (CULT, report by Marie-Christine Vergiat, GUE-NGL, France), on 21 January. The Culture Council adopted a general approach on the proposal on 26 November 2013.

The proposal is a revision of Directive 93/7/EEC, adopted in 1993 when the single market was put in place. The original measure has not been very effective, mainly as a result of its limited scope and a lack of administrative cooperation between states.

The scope of the revised directive will be extended to include all cultural objects classified by a member state as a “national treasure”. Time limits are also lengthened: states will have six months, up from the current two months, to establish whether the object found in another member state constitutes a national treasure, and three years instead of one to file a claim for restitution with the competent national court. The Internal Market Information (IMI) system will be used to improve administrative cooperation and exchange of information between national authorities.

The new measures are also expected to cut costs for member states claiming restitution because compensation to persons in possession of the cultural object will be linked to the exercise of due diligence. Under this principle, the person who possesses a cultural object claimed by a member state must prove that, when acquiring the object, he or she took all necessary steps to ascertain that it came from a legal source. If such evidence cannot be provided, the claimant state will not be required to pay compensation to the individual