On Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 16th September 2015, the European Shoah Legacy Institute, in cooperation with Mr. Pavel Svoboda MEP – Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs – hosted a conference and exhibition on conflict looting and the importance of provenance research to cultural heritage protection.
The conference consisted of two parts: the first one was organized for the members of the Working Group on Culture at the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, and the second one for members of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Committee on Culture and Education at the European Parliament. The conference commenced with a discussion on conflict looting and cultural heritage protection, hosted at the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic to the European Union by Ambassador Jakub Dürr on the morning of Tuesday 15th September. Representatives of over a dozen permanent representations, along with delegates from the European Commission and the Council of the European Union, listened intently as experts from both Europe and the United States discussed the challenges of cultural heritage protection, particularly in the context of modern conflict looting.
This was followed by the official opening of an exhibition gallery at the European Parliament on the evening of Tuesday 15th September, which was hosted and inaugurated by Mr. Pavel Svoboda MEP.
This exhibition on provenance research and cultural heritage protection aimed to address the inextricably linked themes of history, ownership, and possession that define our understanding of the nature and value of art and cultural property. It is hoped that the exhibition will encourage audiences to explore their perceptions on the importance of inheriting, maintaining, and bestowing our shared cultural, intangible, and natural world heritage. As cultural property belongs to all of us collectively, we all share the responsibility of preserving and protecting it for the benefit of future generations.
The exhibition was followed by a concluding seminar on Wednesday 16th September, again hosted by Mr. Pavel Svoboda MEP. This seminar brought together experts and senior representatives of the world’s leading museum (Smithsonian Institution), auction houses (Sotheby’s and Christie’s), provenance and restitution organisations (Dutch Restitution Committee, Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Commission for Art Recovery (Europe)) and cultural heritage protection organisations (European Shoah Legacy Institute, Walk of Truth, Heritage for Peace) to discuss the issues surrounding conflict looting and restorative justice, and the role that the European Parliament can play in combatting the trafficking of plundered cultural heritage. The conference was attended by numerous MEPs and representatives of various parliamentary committees and delegations.
The conference and exhibition on conflict looting and the importance of provenance research to cultural heritage protection concluded with the decision of the Committee on Legal Affairs to commission a study into the viability and suitability of introducing legislation to the European Parliament to mandate provenance research as an indispensable mechanism to combat the trade in illicit antiquities and plundered cultural heritage.