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Vincent Geerling, chairman of the IADAA.

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Last week the European Commission announced plans to tackle the trafficking of cultural goods it believes could be linked to terrorism.

The proposals include a new common EU definition for ‘cultural goods’ that will ‘apply to objects such as archaeological finds, scrolls, remains of historical monuments or artworks that are at least 250 years old’.

A new object ID licensing system guaranteeing legal export from a source country will be required for such items.

Geerling takes issue with the premise behind the law. “The reason given for these measures is to cut off the financing of terror from conflict zones, however the EU Commission does not present any proof or reliable figure for this,” he says.

Art ‘at least 250 years old’

Mark Dodgson, secretary general of The British Antique Dealers’ Association, says the description of “artworks that are at least 250 years old” could prove problematic.

“From what I have read of the proposals it could be very restrictive, since it appears that huge numbers of imports that aren’t antiquities would require ‘object ID’.”

LAPADA chief executive Rebecca Davies adds that the new laws amount to “a reversal of the burden of proof”.

“Having to guarantee legal export from a source country means having that information available to you. If that information is simply not available – what are you supposed to do? You are guilty until proven innocent, which would be a dangerous precedent.”

A consultation on the proposals ended in January. It is expected to become law by 2019 once it passes through the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.