Wolfmayr: Austrian Restitution Law Exemplary

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (01/30/2006)

Calls for change unfounded

Vienna. Austria’s restitution law of 1998 is exemplary worldwide, emphasized Dr. Andrea Wolfmayr today, Spokeswoman for Cultural Affairs of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and member of Parliament. Research on establishing ownership (provenance) is unique, lawfully binding, and tries not only to establish the comprehensive source of new entries into national collections from the year 1938 to 1945 and onward, but also looks for the legal successors of the original owners. Thus, many legitimate claimants could be researched who had no knowledge of their claim, said Ms. Wolfmayr to the statements issued by the Green Party’s Spokeswoman for Judicial Affairs, Ms. Stoisits.

To simply wait until justifiable claims are filed is just wrong. Legitimate claims were actively investigated with help of the Israelite Religious Community (IKG). Compared to restitution procedures internationally, Austria’s are based upon a legal framework. Provenance research and restitution are legally safeguarded, said Wolfmayr. This is different from, let’s say Holland, where there is only a political declaration of intent but no legal obligation regarding restitution of cultural objects. Thus, in contrast to Austria, a change of course regarding intent of return would be possible at a moment’s notice.

Moreover, Austria has abolished the ban on exports for restituted art objects, which is not the case for Germany and the Czech Republic, where the ban on exports is still valid. The laws governing restitution were also consciously set up in such a way that the claims are processed within the shortest time period possible, said Wolfmayr. Positions taken by the party (party line) would draw out the proceedings. Provenance research cooperates closely together with those concerned and takes into consideration each and every claim.

The "Restitutionsbeirat" (Advisory Council on Restitution) has held thirty-three meetings since 1998 and recommended the return of a total of 5,063 art objects (due date: January 18, 2006), emphasized Wolfmayr. Almost all of the cases submitted to the Council, with very few exceptions, received a positive decision. That shows that Austrian restitution law is exemplary worldwide and is oriented toward the interests of those concerned. Therefore, there appears to be no need for change, concluded Wolfmayr.