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Importing cultural goods



Regulation (EU) 2019/880 on the introduction and the import of cultural goods


  • The regulation sets out the conditions for the introduction of cultural goods, and the conditions and procedures for the import of cultural goods, in order to safeguard humanity’s cultural heritage and prevent the illicit trade in cultural goods, in particular where such trade could contribute to terrorist financing.
  • It provides for a system of import licences for the most endangered cultural goods and importer statements for other categories of cultural goods. It does not apply to cultural goods which were either created or discovered in the customs territory of the European Union (EU) which are covered by Directive 2014/60/EU (see summary).


Cultural goods are defined as any item which is of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science and belongs to the categories listed in the regulation’s Annex, Part A.

Prohibited goods

The regulation prohibits the introduction into the EU of cultural goods listed in Part A of the Annex, if these have been illicitly removed from the countries where they were created or discovered (the general prohibition rule).

Import licences and importer statements

  • For the import of cultural goods (i.e. their release for free circulation in the internal market or their placement under special customs procedures other than transit) referred to in Part B of the Annex, i.e. archaeological objects or parts of monuments at least 250 years old, import licences issued by the relevant EU Member State will be required. An import licence is required regardless of the value of these objects.
  • For cultural goods listed in Part C of the Annex (such as zoological or botanical collections, coins, ethnographic objects, paintings, sculptures, manuscripts and books) that are older than 200 years and have a value above €18,000, an importer statement must be submitted by the importer to customs. Such an importer statement consists of a declaration that the goods have been lawfully exported from the non-EU country and a standardised document describing the relevant cultural goods.
  • The submission of applications by operators to competent authorities to obtain an import licence and the submission of importer statements to customs are to be carried out via a centralised electronic system, i.e. the formalities can be done online before the physical arrival of the goods.
  • The import licence or the importer statement should be provided to the customs authorities at the time of the submission of the customs declaration. In the case of placing cultural goods under the free zone regime, the holder of the goods should provide the import licence or the importer statement at the time of presentation of the goods.


The regulation provides for the following exemptions from the requirement to obtain an import licence or to submit an importer statement:

  • cultural goods temporarily imported by educational, scientific or research institutions or by museums for the purpose of conservation and/or exhibition;
  • cultural goods which have not been created or discovered in the EU customs territory, but which have been exported as EU goods, if they are returned goods within the meaning of Article 203 of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 (the Union Customs Code);
  • cultural goods at imminent risk of destruction which are sent by a foreign public authority to a Member State’s public authority for safekeeping;
  • cultural goods which are temporarily imported to be offered for sale at art trade fairs, for which an import licence would normally be required, can instead be placed under the temporary admission procedure with only an importer statement. However, if these cultural goods are sold and will remain in the EU after the art fair, an import licence will have to be obtained for them.

Responsibilities of the European Commission

  • The storage and exchange of information between Member States’ national authorities, in particular concerning import licences and importer statements, is carried out through a centralised electronic system, set up and managed by the Commission.
  • In cooperation with the Member States, the Commission may also organise training and capacity-building activities aimed at non-EU countries.


Member States must take all measures necessary to ensure that the regulation is properly implemented and must adopt and apply effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties for infringements.


Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/1079 of 24 June 2021 lays down detailed rules for implementing certain provisions of Regulation (EU) 2019/880 and in particular, for the exemptions from documentary requirements provided for in its article 3; for the format, template, supporting documents, procedural rules and use of the import licence and the importer statement; the arrangements for the deployment, operation and maintenance of the electronic system (the ‘ICG system’) and detailed rules regarding the submission, processing, storage and exchange of information between the authorities of the Member States by means of that system.


The regulation has applied since 27 June 2019. The general prohibition rule has applied since 28 December 2020. The obligation to obtain an import licence or submit an importer statement will become applicable when the centralised electronic system for the storage and the exchange of information between EU authorities becomes operational, or from 28 June 2025 at the latest.


For more information, see:


Regulation (EU) 2019/880 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on the introduction and the import of cultural goods (OJ L 151, 7.6.2019, pp. 1–14).


Directive (EU) 2017/541 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2017 on combating terrorism and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA and amending Council Decision 2005/671/JHA (OJ L 88, 31.3.2017, pp. 6–21).

Council Regulation (EC) No 116/2009 of 18 December 2008 on the export of cultural goods (Codified version) (OJ L 39, 10.2.2009, pp. 1–7).

last update 23.09.2021