United States and Bulgaria Sign Agreement to Protect Cultural Heritage

Ambassador Marcie B. Ries¬¬ and Minister of Culture Dr. Petar Stoyanovich signed an agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria concerning the protection of Bulgaria’s cultural heritage. The ceremony took place at the National Museum of History in Sofia.


The Memorandum of Understanding Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic Bulgaria Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Categories of Archaeological and Ecclesiastical Ethnological Material Representing the Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Bulgaria (“Agreement”) will strengthen and enhance collaboration to reduce looting and trafficking of antiquities, and simplify their return to Bulgaria.  It also aims to further the international interchange of such materials for cultural, educational, and scientific purposes.  

The two countries, both parties to the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, entered into the Agreement following a request submitted to the U.S. Department of State by the Bulgarian government in July of 2011.  

The Agreement authorizes the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to prevent the import into the United States of Bulgarian cultural heritage items, unless the Government of Bulgaria issues a license authorizing the export of these materials. In addition, when such materials are seized at the United States border, the United States government will return them to the Government of Bulgaria. The import restrictions will make it more difficult for criminal groups and smugglers to deliver these stolen items to buyers in the United States, thus reducing access to a major market for stolen cultural heritage property and decreasing the incentive to pillage these materials. 

The import restrictions will apply to  archaeological material ranging in date from 7,500 B.C. to approximately 1750 A.D., and ethnological material ranging in date from 681 A.D. to approximately 1750 A.D., to be set forth in a Designated List that will be published  in the U.S. Federal Register shortly after the Agreement is signed. The Designated List was developed based on information  from the Bulgarian government and other expert sources. 

In addition to the import restrictions, the Agreement pledges further cooperation between the United States and Bulgaria in the area of cultural heritage protection, and encourages information sharing, increased attention to the stewardship of cultural heritage materials, documentation of theft and looting, strengthening of cultural heritage protection laws, and expanded educational and outreach initiatives supporting Bulgarian cultural heritage. The Agreement also encourages the lending of archaeological and ethnological materials to United States museums and institutions for exhibitions and other scholarly or cultural initiatives, to the extent permitted by Bulgarian law

Add comment

Security code