Transfer of cultural property

Antique marblehead from Sidon (Lebanon)
Antique marblehead from Sidon (Lebanon)

Cultural property is a concrete witness of culture and history that holds a special place for the identity of the individual as well as the community as a whole. It further defines the self-image and social cohesion of a society. This is why protecting, preserving and promoting movable cultural heritage today is one of the important duties of a state.

The Specialised Body for the International Transfer of Cultural Property at the Swiss Federal Office of Culture (FOC) has been entrusted since June 1, 2005 with the execution of the Federal Act on the International Transfer of Cultural Property (CPTA). The CPTA implements the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the 2001 UNESCO Convention into domestic law and regulates the import of cultural property into Switzerland, its transit and export and its repatriation from Switzerland as well as measures against illicit transfer. With this act, the Federal Government desires to make a contribution to the maintenance of the cultural heritage of mankind and prevent theft, looting, and illicit import and export of cultural property.

Roman bust of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, Musée Romain d'Avenches
Roman bust of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, Musée Romain d'Avenches

In particular, the CPTA affects the following areas:

  • Demand for intercultural dialog and sustainable exchange (financial assistance for maintaining the movable cultural heritage and structural regulations)
  • Protection of Swiss cultural heritage (export of Confederation or cantons' cultural property)
  • Contribution to the protection of the cultural heritage of other states (import of cultural property into Switzerland and bilateral agreements)
  • Promotion of international exchanges between museums (return guarantee for museums)
  • Special duties of diligence for the art trade and auctioning business

As the federal center of competence, the Specialised Body is the point of contact for the public, involved circles and authorities. It represents Switzerland vis-à-vis foreign authorities on issues of the transfer of cultural property. The Specialised Body advises and coordinates work of the federal authorities and assumes an advisory role as well in cooperation with cantonal authorities (in particular, justice authorities and public prosecution, cantonal archeology authorities as well as cultural departments).

Last modification 22.06.2023

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Federal Office of Culture
Specialised Body for the International Transfer of Cultural Property
Hallwylstrasse 15
3003 Bern
Phone +41 58 462 03 25

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