A Commentary to International Conventions and European Union Law
IHC Series in Heritage Management
Although the ‘tale’ of cultural property law is very much a ‘Tale of Two Cities’, the nationalist and the cosmopolitan, it is also true that the boundaries between the nationalist and the internationalist approaches have been blurred by more pragmatic views; those dictated by reality, mutual understanding and co-operation. Both sides occasionally use the same arguments to argue different points. ‘Retention’, for example, is used to indicate the ‘retention’ of cultural objects both in collections (by museums and private collectors) and in state territory (by states). ‘Movement of art’ is used by internationalists to argue that any home can be a good home for cultural heritage and by nationalists on the basis of cultural diplomacy and missionary art through loans. The trend, however (reflected in particular in the 1970 UNESCO Convention, the 1995 Unidroit Convention and European Union law and in general in soft law instruments) is that a nation is the most appropriate custodian of its own cultural heritage. That assumption is made on the basis of geography, historical background, cultural identity and context and does not run counter to the preservation of cultural heritage for the sake of humanity. Humanity incorporates diversity and plurality. Preservation of national cultural heritage serves exactly that.1 1 See the Preamble to the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: . . . Affirming that cultural diversity is a defining characteristic of humanity, Conscious that cultural diversity forms a common heritage of humanity and should be cherished and preserved...
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