In December 2013, as a reaction to the Gurlitt art find, the newly appointed Bavarian Minister of Justice announced that Bavaria would propose a change of the German Civil Code to address the application of the statute of limitation to looted art. And he delivered: The proposal was approved by the Bavarian State Government today. Bavaria’s initiative to amend the Civil Code – which is federal, not state law – will now be dealt with in the Upper Chamber (Bundesrat) of the German parliament. It is expected to be on the Bundesrat’s agenda on February 14, 2014. If it passes this hurdle, the proposal will be dealt with, and ideally approved by, the Lower Chamber (Bundestag). Here is a link to the proposed legislation – the Kulturgut-Rückgewähr-Gesetz, or Art Restitution Act. Watch this space for a more detailed post commenting on the proposal.
We have covered the spectacular Gurlitt case here before. The treasure trove of looted art seized by the Bavarian public prosecutor’s office in a Schwabing apartment raises complex legal issues at the cross-road of the law of seizure and the law of movable property – these were discussed at the VII. Heidelberg Art Law Conference last week. The panel discussion was jointly organized by the German Institute of Art and Law and the Research Center for Transnational Commercial Dispute Resolution at EBS University of Economics and Law, Wiesbaden. I am glad that one of the panellists, Professor Matthias Weller, co-director of IFKUR and director of the EBS Dispute Resolution Center, has agreed to share his views in a guest post. He argues that the seizure of the works of art by the Augsburg public prosecution opens the doors for civil law claims. Continue reading