For 14 years, the United States and Italian governments have been in a bilateral agreement that protects Italy’s cultural heritage by imposing import restrictions on pre-classical, classical and Imperial Roman archaeological material.
The two countries have maintained a successful working relationship over the years. As a result, every five years since 2001, the agreement, also known as Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cultural Property has been renewed – with amendments – for a five-year period.
With the current MOU expiring in January 2016, representatives from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Rome office, in coordination with the U.S. Embassy to Italy’s Cultural Affairs Office, recently supported a visit by Dr. Catherine Foster, a program analyst for the Department of State Cultural Heritage Center, in preparation for yet another five-year renewal.
During the week of Feb. 16, Foster met with representatives from the Italian Ministry of Culture and the Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (Unit for the Protection of Cultural Patrimony) and the U.S. Ambassador to Italy. In addition to meeting with top Italian government officials to discuss the renewal of the MOU, Foster’s aim was to gather as much information as possible to report on the current state of the MOU to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C. and the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).
Foster, along with HSI and Embassy Rome officials, visited several archeological sites in the Lazio Region. In a visit to Ceveteri, an ancient Etruscan archeological site that has been subjected to recent looting, the U.S. team observed a community effort to work with archaeologists to better excavate tombs before looters could remove the contents.
HSI remains committed to helping prevent the illegal trafficking of illicit cultural property. The agency has been recognized for its investigative work which resulted in the seizure, forfeiture and return of several objects to the Italian government.
Additional information regarding the U.S.-Italian MOU on the protection of cultural heritage can be found on ECA.state.gov.