Sunday, March 30, 2014

Nod, Nod, Wink, Wink?

I guess Deborah Lehr's statement that the State Department "is open" to import restrictions "if Egypt's application passes through all the necessary legal processes" may sound better than the suggestion of the New York Times Editorial  Board that a MOU is already a "done deal," but is that  just a distinction without much of a difference?

The State Department has failed to respond to heartfelt concerns raised by CPAC members about the transparency and lawfulness of the process.  Indeed, rather than addressing those concerns, State has instead now packed what is supposed to be an advisory committee representing different views with supporters of one interest group-- archaeologists-- that have traditionally been supportive of broad restrictions.  And it's not as if CPAC was anti-source country before anyway.  In fact, no source country has ever been turned down for a MOU, though sometimes CPAC has recommended fewer restrictions on particular types of cultural goods than those imposed (coins being the primary example) and placed additional conditions on agreements.

So why bother with making one's views known to CPAC and State?  The State Department's processes for imposing import restrictions should be instructive to countries like Egypt.  They should not mirror the phony legal forms all too often found in such nations.  And silence of those concerned about the burdens MOUs place on legitimate collecting will unfortunately be taken as acquiescence by those running the show in the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and it its Cultural Heritage Center.

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