The Italian Associazione Nazionale Archeologi (ANA) is up in arms about a proposed law that would legalize archaeological artifacts in private hands that are declared upon payment of a modest fee. See http://www.archeologi.org/web/news.asp?id=609 The last Berlusconi government made a similar proposal, but it ultimately failed due to like opposition from Italian archaeologists.
What is different now? Italy, like other Western countries, is facing hard budget choices, and the proposal has been incorporated into other budgetary measures. According to the ANA, this will make the proposal difficult to defeat.
Archaeo-blogger David Gill predictably joins his Italian colleagues in condemning the proposal. See http://lootingmatters.blogspot.com/2010/07/italy-un-patrimonio-di-tutta-lumanita.html But, the proposal won't stop the Carabineri's efforts to catch looters. And it will bring objects in private hands to light that would otherwise stay hidden from scholars.
Hopefully, instead of complaining, archaeologists will ultimately join the effort to record useful information about any artifacts that are declared. I suspect those artifacts that are declared will be in the hands of otherwise law abiding Italian citizens. Although the ANA claims the proposal will be a boon to the Mafia, I doubt it. Does anyone really think the Mafia would want to declare antiquities to the authorities, particularly if it could lead to futher investigation?
In any event, the proposal also undercuts the AIA's claims that import restrictions on Italian cultural artifacts should be continued for another five years as part of the MOU with Italy. And, of course, given the proposed Italian law, the very idea of reversing the current exemption for coins seems even more ridiculous than before.
Hopefully, Assistant Secretary Ann Stock of State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has been apprised of this proposed law and will take it into account as she considers the renewal of the current MOU with Italy. Cultural cooperation can certainly continue without continuing restrictions on artifacts openly available for sale on markets abroad.