White & Case Instrumental in EU Initiative on Recovery of Looted Art

PRNewswire 17 December 2003
BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 17 /PRNewswire/ -- In a bold move, the European Parliament in Strasbourg today called for the European Commission to formulate protocols to help owners of artwork looted during the Nazi-era regain their property. Global law firm White & Case drafted the concepts and coordinated legislative relations for the parliamentary Resolution, which affects thousands of artworks, valued at billions of dollars, unlawfully removed throughout Europe.

The Resolution passed 487 to 10.

White & Case litigator Owen Pell said claims to art looted during the Holocaust face significant obstacles because of competing laws in numerous jurisdictions.

"In whose jurisdiction should a claim be filed? Do property laws in one country interfere with legal obligations of another to return looted items? A new approach is needed for a fair and equitable way for claims to be resolved," said Pell, who developed the concepts adopted by Parliament on behalf of the non-profit Commission for Art Recovery.

Resolution A5-408/2003 calls on the Commission to undertake a study by the end of 2004 on:

- Establishing a common catalogue of data on looted cultural goods and status of existing claims;

- Developing principles of access to records concerning property identification and location and linking relevant databases;

- Identifying common principles on establishing ownership, standards of proofs, and rights to trade recovered property;

- Exploring dispute resolution mechanisms to avoid lengthy judicial proceedings;

- Creating a cross-border authority for title disputes on cultural goods.

"This is one of the first times Parliament has outlined specific actions for the Commission to take, sending a strong political message about this issue's importance," said Thomas Tindemans of White & Case in Brussels, who coordinated legislative relations for the Resolution.

The Resolution's parliamentary sponsor, Willy C.E.H. De Clercq of Belgium, said: "After 50 years, it's wrong for these claims to be stalled due to the lack of an effective legal process, which is why we are calling on the EC to act swiftly to develop a mechanism where issues related to title and ownership can be resolved fairly, not just for looted art but similar situations."
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