Culture under protection
Art is not a commodity like any other. Unlike goods of daily use, cultural goods have not only a price, but also and above all an ideal value. This ideal value is particularly high when works of art reflect the history and identity of a country in a special way.
Safeguarding, preserving and keeping cultural assets for future generations
Under the law on the restitution of cultural objects, the customs authorities are now required to cooperate, within the limits of the powers conferred on them, both upon export and upon import of objects of historical, artistic or other cultural significance (cultural objects).
Export of cultural assets
Within the framework of the export of cultural assets, there is a distinction between European law and Austrian law. European law has defined categories of cultural assets that require special protection in trade with third countries (non-EU countries). Exportation of such cultural assets from the customs territory of the European Union may take place only if an export permit has been issued, which is valid throughout the European Union.
Austrian law pertaining to cultural assets is regulated within the framework of the Austrian Act on the Protection of Historical Monuments. The categories of cultural assets that require a permit to be transferred across the Austrian border are determined. Accordingly, the provisions of this Federal Law apply to immovable and movable property of historical, artistic or other cultural significance (“monuments”) created by man if their preservation is in the public interest because of their importance.
Imports of cultural assets
In order to prevent illegal import of cultural assets into Austria, the customs authorities carry out checks within the scope of their powers both on imports from third countries and on shipments from other EU countries. In particular, they are entitled to require proof of the legal origin and export of the cultural asset from the country of origin.