Thursday, May 13, 2010

Report on CPAC Hearing on Italian MOU-Part III

Here is more from the 5/6 CPAC hearing:

Souzana Steverding represented Ancient Coins for Education (ACE). She indicated her program using ancient Roman coins to teach kids about history currently reaches 75-100 schools. She expressed concern that restrictions would preclude her organization from receiving coins as donations for her program. She believes the system in the U.K. is a good one that Italy should emulate.

Rick Witschonke (ANS, but speaking on his own behalf) indicated that he was deeply saddened by the loss of knowledge occasioned by looting. He also believes looting has not decreased in Italy despite the MOU. It may be riskier than previously, but there will always be some ready to take that risk. The UK was in a similar situation before the Treasure Act was passed and a portable antiquities scheme was implemented. He believes CPAC can and should suggest that Italy consider a similar system modified to Italy’s own needs. CPAC made a similar suggestion back in 2000 and should do so again here. Some may claim this system has its faults, but it is much preferable to the current state of affairs in Italy. The governing statute, the CCPIA, contemplates that CPAC will make such suggestions to assist source countries protect their own cultural patrimony.

Peter Tompa represented the International Association of Professional Numismatists and the Professional Numismatists Guild. He indicated that the numismatic community was unclear whether the issue of coins was actually “on the table” because the Federal Register notice did not indicate whether new restrictions would be contemplated within the context of renewal. He wrote Undersecretary McHale to ask, but received no response. If coins are “on the table,” there is no reason to depart from CPAC’s prior two recommendations to exempt coins from restrictions. The governing statute limits restrictions to artifacts “first discovered” in Italy. IAPN presented an academic paper that demonstrated Greek and Roman coins struck in Italy circulated far from there. There also is the issue that such coins are freely collected in Italy and the rest of the EU without any need to show provenance information. Tompa passed along three Italian auction catalogues picturing unproveanced ancient Greek and Roman coins struck in Italy to demonstrate that point. There are no import controls on coins into the EU and the two main market countries of Germany and the UK do not require export permits for coins not straight from the ground. In addition, the Italian-Swiss bilateral agreement exempts coins. This means the governing statute’s “concerted international response” requirement cannot be met and restrictions would only discriminate against Americans.

William Pearlstein represented several antiquities collectors. He indicated that now that looting is under control in Italy there is no reason to continue restrictions. Restrictions under the current MOU should be narrowed to incorporate only artifacts that are demonstrably Italian. Criminal law already protects Italy’s interests sufficiently. Pearlstein also passed around a Pandolfini catalogue of Italian archaeological materials being sold in Italy. He indicated that given the fact artifacts on the designated list were found in that catalogue, restrictions are only discriminatory against Americans.

Arthur Houghton, speaking for himself only, said the current MOU was of concern because it was unclear with respect to the designated list of covered material, which could include objects legally exportable by other ountries; encouraged underperformance by the Government of Italy with respect to that country's reciprocal obligations under Article II; and discriminated against Americanas in that it allows Italians and others access to routine sales of privately held antiquities not claimed by the State but restricts such objects against export to the United States by American citizens. He was asked for suggestions that would remedy the stark asymmetry of the MOU's provisions.

To be continued.

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