A Commentary to International Conventions and European Union Law
IHC Series in Heritage Management
Chapter 2: International Conventions
General Remarks 2.1 THE 1970 UNESCO CONVENTION The 1970 UNESCO Convention was the result of a long process of forming mentalities towards the protection of cultural property, which had taken place both in the League of Nations (predecessor of the United Nations) and in UNESCO itself.1 It was also the outcome of an era during which illegal trade in art was flourishing and claims for the return and restitution of cultural objects were augmenting. The late 1960s in particular was a time when many objects, removed during the colonial period, were being claimed back. Many states, such as Greece (1834), Italy (1872) and France (1887), had already enacted laws in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with the aim of protecting their cultural property.2 The first discussions in the League of Nations were initiated after the First World War with the co-ordination of the Office International des Musées (OIM) and gave rise to two draft conventions which, however, never became proper conventions because of the reluctance of the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden and the United States. The Second World War put an end to those negotiations.3 The two most important and influential instruments in this respect were two Recommendations. The 1956 Recommendation on International Principles Applicable to Archaeological Excavations aimed at encouraging UNESCO was founded in 1945. O’Keefe, P.J. (2000), Commentary on the UNESCO 1970 Convention on Illicit Traffic, Leicester: Institute of Art and Law, 3. 3 The first draft convention was entitled ‘Convention on the Repatriation...
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