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The South East European Heritage Network has asked the Albanian government to intensify its efforts to combat illegal trafficking in artworks and antiques.
|Statue of Ascelpius stolen from the Butrint Museum and returned to Albania in 2010 | Photo courtesy of Ministry of Culture|
“We call on decision-markers and political structures, organizations and responsible institutions to use all the necessary legal means to combat these phenomena,” the network said in a statement.
The statement came at the conclusion of SEE Heritage Network meetings held in Tirana last week. The organization, a consortium of 12 groups engaged in the preservation of cultural heritage in the Balkans, cited a need for Albania to strengthen its laws protecting cultural sites, art galleries and museums.
It also recommended listing private collections, which should be protected as public assets, and amending the criminal code to recognize trafficking in artworks as a “serious crime.”
The theft of antiques became rampant in Albania in the 1990s, as the country struggled through a period of anarchy and lawlessness following the collapse of a series of pyramid investment schemes.
Though the situation has improved, experts say that theft at archaeological sites continues to be a problem.
Those losses are critical, Lorenc Bejko, a rescue archaeologist and former director of the National Institute of Monuments, told Balkan Insight in an earlier interview.
“Antiques that are stolen from museums are documented and sooner or later they will emerge in the international market,” he said. “However, those stolen from archaeological sites directly remain undocumented and lost forever.”
The statement also emphasized the need for better cooperation among state institutions, and clarification of their administrative competencies. It suggested installing a toll-free number to report thefts and suspicious activity, and publishing known cases of theft.
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