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    War and smuggling of cultural goods

    Warfare creates conditions for the smuggling of works of art and the destruction of cultural heritage. In Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and other countries affected by the consequences of armed conflict, illegal exports of cultural goods may occur. A conscious art market is promoted and regulated by e.g. Polish researchers from the UNESCO Chair in Opole.

    Illegal trade in cultural goods

    “Most often, the smuggling of cultural goods takes place from countries where illegal excavations or warfare are carried out. Currently, Ukraine is such a country exposed to illegal exports of works of art. A similar situation affects Iraq and Syria.”,

    enumerates Dr Jagielska-Burduk, Secretary General of the Polish Committee for UNESCO.

    Scientists are working on the issue of due diligence, a set of legal provisions and good practices that define how to proceed when acquiring cultural goods, such as paintings, sculptures or archaeological monuments.

    Dr Jagielska-Burduk heads the UNESCO Chair in the field of cultural property protection law at the University of Opole. Her team deals with the problem of illegal trade in monuments related to the war in Ukraine. The Department was established in 2018 to deal with movable cultural goods, their turnover, threats to monuments due to e.g. to illegal exports or illegal excavations. He is currently working on the possibilities of using the links between individual UNESCO conventions in the field of culture in order to strengthen the system of protection of cultural heritage.

    The Polish team consists of experts in EU law, administrative law, European law and constitutional law. Students and experts from Croatia and Spain, as well as from other UNESCO departments, are involved in the protection of cultural property, e.g. from Geneva, Sydney and Beijing. Joining the network is associated with numerous prestige benefits and the possibility of cooperation with all other universities around the world that deal with similar topics.

    “On trips abroad, we often buy souvenirs. A conscious market participant certainly avoids situations in which he could buy antiques that should not leave the home country. Due diligence requires checking the origin of e.g. paintings in special databases – these include Interpol databases, databases run by private entities or Red Lists of cultural goods at risk of illegal trade published by the International Council of Museums.”,

    said Dr Jagielska-Burduk.

    “There need not be conflicting interests between the protection of cultural property and the market. A conscious market of cultural goods does not preclude protection, but even assumes it.”,

    she added.

    Every year, the Chair in Opole co-organizes with universities from Gdańsk and Poznań a seminar for young researchers – students, doctoral students and young scientists – in the field of cultural heritage in Lubostroń. This year it will be the 10th edition. The participants of the seminar, apart from lawyers, are historians, art historians, economists and conservators.


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