New regulations proposed by the European Commission seek to clamp down on the illegal import of cultural goods used to finance terrorism.

Recent years have seen an influx to the EU of illicit antiquities looted from archaeological and cultural sites in Iraq and Syria. The practice made headlines again earlier this month when the arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby was forced to surrender thousands of artifacts that had been illegally smuggled into the US.

The European Commission’s proposal, released on July 13 as part of a broader plan to fight terrorist financing, would ban the import of cultural goods over 250 years old to the EU if they have been exported illegally from their home countries.

The EU currently imposes a ban on the trade of cultural goods from Iraq and Syria in cases where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the goods have been acquired illegitimately. Certain Member States, such as Germany, France, Austria, and the Netherlands, additionally enforce their own more general restrictions. However, the inconsistencies across the bloc make the more vulnerable Member States ready chinks in the armor for smugglers to exploit. The new proposal paves the way for a general framework to deal with the trade of cultural goods within the EU, which will allow for consistent procedures to be deployed all along the bloc’s external borders. read more