Archaeological Blogger David Gill has issued another PRNewswire Release, this time linking Italy's successful repatriation efforts to its current MOU with the US. See Looting Matters: Are Import Restrictions on Italian Antiquities Working? The nub of Gill's post is that because objects have been returned to Italy, the MOU must be "working." The problem with this claim is that such repatriations have nothing at all to do with the impact of the current MOU on American citizens and institutions.
Instead, US Museums have repatriated artifacts accessioned well before the 2001 MOU voluntarily after negative publicity, and an auction house recently returned other artifacts, because Italy produced photographic evidence they were from the Medici trove of stolen artifacts. See http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2009/11/gotcha-italian-style.html
What does the MOU do then as far as US citizens and institutions are concerned? Art. I in fact sets up import restrictions on a wide range of Classical Greek and Roman cultural artifacts. The restrictions require importers to certify artifacts on the designated list were outside of Italy as of January 23, 2001, the date restrictions were promulgated. See http://exchanges.state.gov/heritage/culprop/itfact.html?
(Alternatively, an Italian export certificate must be produced.) Such restrictions are inherently controversial because they effectively shift the burden of proof onto the importer to show that artifacts are "legitimate," even where provenance information necessary to make that showing may not be readily available.
As such, they place an unnecessary burden on the legitimate exchange of cultural artifacts. The current restrictions have been in place since 2001. Their provenance requirements have certainly impacted the ability of Americans to import unprovenanced ancient Roman and Greek artifacts of Italian origin. At the same time, Italians continue to be able to purchase such unprovenanced artifacts in Italy itself without any similar legal impediments. See http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2009/11/interim-review-of-italian-mou.html
Gill has cited the Carabinieri's successful police work that has effectively staunched the looting of archaeological sites. Though such efforts fulfill certain of Italy's obligations under Art. II of the current MOU, those successes have come about without any reference at all to the import restrictions under Art. I the MOU. As such, isn't it time to reexamine whether such import restrictions-- and their negative impact on American citizens and institutions interested in the study, preservation and display of Italian cultural artifacts-- are truly necessary when CPAC considers Art. I of the current MOU next fall?