New EU Directive for Return of Stolen Art Excludes Most Nazi Loot

The European Council has approved a measure designed to ease EU member states’ ability to repatriate stolen artworks and objects of cultural heritage from fellow EU members. The directive creates a new online database, the Internal Market Information System (IMI), for repatriation claims between governmental authorities.

It also shifts the burden of proof away from the claimant and onto the current possessor of the artwork or artifact and expands the timeframe in which an initial repatriation claim must be made.

While the move may initially appear to be a watershed moment for the return of Nazi looted art, the fine print proves otherwise. This new directive only applies to works that were illegally moved from one EU member state to another since the pan-European body was formalized in 1993.

Member states have 18 months in order to adopt the widening of circumstances for repatriation outlined in the EU directive into their own legislation. The directive was initially sponsored by European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani in May of last year.

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