Doc. 9788

10 April 2003

The privatisation of cultural property

Motion for a recommendation

presented by Ms Melandri and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only the members who have signed it

1.       The Council of Europe has pioneered conservation of the European cultural heritage. Along with Unesco it has drawn up a system of conventions setting out internationally recognised norms for protecting the heritage. These include the notion of common responsibility, whether of Europe or of mankind, as well as the responsibility of the state.

2.       The Council of Europe has also sought to develop partnerships between the private and public sectors in the conservation and sustainable use of this heritage, for example, by alerting the tourist industry, conservation firms and private owners.

3.       While much cultural property (movable and immovable) is owned by the state, a considerable amount is owned by other bodies - from local and regional government, to churches, and non-governmental organisations, to commercial companies and private individuals.

4.       There is moreover an increasing trend towards the privatisation of the cultural heritage. This has been a major feature of the change of régime in central and eastern Europe. It is also evidenced by the rise in the art trade (legal and illegal). It has recently been highlighted by the move of the Italian Government to sell off state-owned cultural property.

5.       While recognising the potential benefits of privatisation, the Assembly is anxious to ensure that moves towards private ownership do not in any way diminish protection of the heritage or absolve the state from its responsibility to ensure such protection.

6.       In particular the Assembly would point out the dangers inherent in such cases as ceding land with unknown archaeological content, releasing incompletely researched objects on the open market without ensuring traceability, or failing to secure liability insurance for protection and maintenance.

7.       Privatisation, just as decentralisation, carries the further risks of weakening central cultural planning control against local commercial interests, and of ignorance in recognising cultural value (for example archaeological context) or assessing the appropriate conservation techniques.

8.       The Assembly therefore asks the Committee of Ministers:

- to conduct a comparative study of the responsibility involved in ownership (public and private) of cultural heritage (movable and immovable);

- to examine how adequately the existing European conventions relating to cultural heritage cover privatisation and if necessary draw up supplementary texts;

- to encourage member states to ensure that private owners of cultural property are responsible (directly or through insurance arrangements) for the protection and maintenance of the property in their care.

Signed 1:

Melandri, Italy, SOC

Agudo, Spain, SOC

Banks, United Kingdom, SOC

De Puig, Spain, SOC

Fehr, Switzerland, LDR

Galoyan, Armenia, EPP/CD

Hooper, United Kingdom, EDG

Huseynov R., Azerbaijan, LDR

Kontogiannopoulos, Greece, SOC

Livaneli, Turkey, SOC

Lucyga, Germany, SOC

Mahmood, United Kingdom, SOC

O'Hara, United Kingdom, SOC

Petrova-Mitevska, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", SOC

Podgórski, Poland, SOC


1        SOC: Socialist Group

      EPP/CD: Group of the European People’s Party

      EDG: European Democratic Group

      LDR : Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group

      UEL: Group of the Unified European Left

      NR: not registered in a group