Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr Antony Mair

  Thank you for your letter of 20 April, enclosing a copy of the transcript of the hearing before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

  In response to your request for the background evidence for my statements about the European Commission's view as to the scope of the export laws of southern member states, I am not able to provide the Committee with the original statements, since they were oral. The statements were made in the course of the Fifth Symposium on "Legal Aspects of International Trade in Art" organised by the International Chamber of Commerce in Vienna in September 1994. The symposium lasted for two days and was attended by a large audience, from all parts of the world. One of the speakers on Friday 30 September was Mr Alfonso Mattera, of the European Commission. Mr Mattera is also a professor at the College of Europe in Bruges and at the University of Modena.

  As members of the Committee may be aware, Article 29 EC Treaty (formerly Article 34) prohibits quantitative restrictions on exports, and all measures having equivalent effect, as between member states. However, Article 30 EC Treaty (formerly Article 36) contains a derogation from this provision in relation to exports justified on grounds of "the protection of national treasures possessing artistic, historic or archaeological value".

  The legal question which therefore arises in relation to exports of works of art between member states is the extent to which the Article 30 derogation can be invoked because the works of art concerned are "national treasures possessing artistic, historic or archaeological value". In the course of his presentation in Vienna, Mr Mattera conveyed clearly that in his view the very restrictive regime applicable in Italy, for example, went further than the derogation. However, in the absence of either existing case law providing an interpretation by the European Court of Justice of the term in Article 30, or any complaint by any party which would give rise to a case before the European Court of Justice that would result in such an interpretation, the Italian law would continue in force.

  In the course of questioning after his presentation, Mr Mattera said that he had invited members of the trade on repeated occasions to lodge complaints with the European Commission against export laws which the trade might consider excessive, but that no such complaint had been lodged.

  I subsequently had a meeting with Mr Mattera at the European Commission in Brussels in order to consider ways of proceeding with a complaint—at the time, I was envisaging a complaint relating to either the Italian export laws or the Spanish ones. Mr Mattera said that the Commission would welcome a complaint of this kind.

  I enclose, for your interest, a copy of an article written by Mr Mattera[54], which formed part of the documentation distributed at the symposium, and which discusses the question of the free circulation of works of art within the European Community and the protection of national treasures possessing artistic, historic or archaeological value. I would draw your attention in particular to pages 22 and following where Mr Mattera tries to produce a proper definition of national treasures, resulting in a passage on page 25 which is remarkably similar to the Waverley criteria applied by the UK. This is a considerably more restrictive approach than that adopted by southern member states.

  I understand that Mr Mattera is still in the Internal Market Directorate General at the Commission, but that he is now head of Directorate B, which covers public procurement policy. Although he took a personal interest in this particular aspect of the Treaty, it may well now be that the file would be handled by someone else in the Commission.

  If I can be of any further assistance, please let me know.

May 2000

54    Not printed. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 25 July 2000