Lower house passes enactment of third-state heritage protection

Prague, Sept 30

The bill will now be proceeded to the Senate, the upper house of the Czech Parliament, which might debate it in mid-October.

The new rules are supposed to forestall illegal trade with cultural property and plundering of the archeological sites. In some countries of the Middle East, this practice serves as a means of financing terrorism.

The bill was prepared by the former government of Andrej Babis (ANO), the Chamber of Deputies did not have time to pass it, however. Culture Minister Martin Baxa (Civic Democrats, ODS) said the bill should have been passed two years ago.

It determines how the Culture Ministry along with the Czech customs authority should proceed in case they detect a cultural property brought to Czechia outside the law of the country of origin. The bill describes the procedure starting with the moment the authorities detect the object, subsequent examination of the object by an institution funded by the Culture Ministry and the decision of the Culture Ministry to confiscate it and return it to the country of its origin.

The proposed amendment is the first part of a European norm adaptation, its implementation period was on December 28, 2020. The second part will follow by June 2025 at the latest in relation with the establishment of a centralised electronic system which will serve as a platform for the EU member states to share information about the import of cultural property from third countries.

The proposed rules are not new to the Czech penal code. They derive from the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, which the former Czechoslovak Socialist Republic signed in 1977.