Cultural property, as an invaluable testimony of history and identity to be preserved in all circumstances, contributes to the creation of a more peaceful, just and cohesive society. However, with alarming frequency, cultural property is targeted in both peace and wartime, often leading to a permanent destruction or loss of cultural heritage, with resulting impoverishment for humanity as a whole. It is stolen from museums, galleries, private collections, religious monuments or archaeological sites and illicitly trafficked via international organised crimes networks. This illegal trade has become a transnational phenomenon, bypassing national borders and local police checkpoints.
Therefore, in the framework of the Council of Europe Convention on Offences relating to Cultural Property (also known as the “Nicosia Convention”), the Commissioner for Volunteerism and Non-Governmental Organisations of the Republic of Cyprus, in co-operation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, the Council of Europe and the European Union is organising a two-day Conference on 25 and 26 October (Filoxenia Conference Center, “Zenon Kitieus” Meeting Room, in Nicosia), to raise awareness and promote shared efforts at fighting offences relating to cultural property.
The event will be opened by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, Nikos Christodoulides and Deputy Secretary General Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni (press statements will be delivered at 09:50 am).
The symposium will also feature findings from a new European study on trafficking of cultural property and links to organised crime, new regulation by the European Commission on the import of cultural goods as well as important ongoing European research and action projects.
Participants will include representatives of governments (crime prevention, culture, tourism, education) and civil society/NGOs from Council of Europe member States and other neighbourhood countries, business representatives as well as representatives of the European Union, UNESCO, UNIDROIT, INGOs and other relevant stakeholders.
The conference will be highly interactive and combine specialists’ points of view with those of more generalist heritage actors. Finally, based on in-depth debates in four thematic working groups, it will consolidate insights and formulate action proposals for working vigorously towards a culture of awareness and responsible handling of cultural property, empowering citizens and governments alike.
The Council of Europe Convention on Offences relating to Cultural Property is open for signature since 19 May 2017 to Council of Europe member states and to any country in the world. The treaty aims to prevent and combat the illicit trafficking and destruction of cultural property, in the framework of the Organisation’s action to fight terrorism and organised crime, fostering international co-operation and partnerships.
The Convention, which is the only international treaty specifically dealing with the criminalisation of the illicit trafficking of cultural property, establishes a number of criminal offences, including theft; unlawful excavation, importation and exportation; and illegal acquisition and placing on the market. It also criminalises the falsification of documents and the destruction or damage of cultural property when committed intentionally.