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Fight against trafficking in cultural goods


Trafficking in cultural goods has become one of the most profitable criminal activities for organised crime groups and the booming art and antiquity market is creating new business models for organised crime. At the same time, the art and antiquity market is also one of the least regulated markets in Europe, characterised by a lack of traceability and speculative pricing of the objects, rendering it an ideal place also for money laundering, tax evasion, etc.

Building on the results of recently completed projects, the nexus between terrorism and serious and organised crime (including cyber) deserves to be analysed further. The involvement in serious and organised crime may as well allow terrorists to generate funds to finance terrorism-related activities, as it is the case in trafficking of cultural goods. ""Blood antiquities"" are, unfortunately, nothing new. Works of art and archaeological goods/finds are looted in war zones as well as in regions not experiencing conflict, and then sold to wealthy collectors and antiquities dealers in Europe. Research has shown that crimes related to cultural goods may be conducted by organised crime groups in order to generate profit or to launder illegally acquired funds. Despite the seriousness of this issue, fundamental questions remain: How are these precious items secretly transported and what facilitates their illicit movement? What are the relations with other types of crime? How much does the trafficking of cultural goods bring in? What is the role and extension of online markets and social networks in supporting trafficking (e.g. discussion groups where looters and intermediaries exchange tips and tricks to circumvent police checks)? How can a stolen work be identified? How should the information be stored in accessible databases? What are reliable and ethical ways to gather and share information about this type of crime? What is the relationship between organised crime and the open market for cultural goods (the “grey” market)? What roles do museums and other cultural institutions (unwittingly) play in this trade? And - who defines what is an antiquity and to whom it should belong? Evidence-based research is needed to answer these questions, and to support the development of targeted and effective anti-trafficking policy.

The proposals in this topic should shed a light on these issues through robust research methodologies that prioritise new data collection and analysis, and applications towards the development of evidence-based policy. Proposals should support the gathering of intelligence and the development of tools that Police Authorities and other relevant practitioners need to fight this crime and to collect actionable (cross-border) evidence acceptable in court, with the ultimate goal of disrupting the illicit trade and of mitigating its harmful effects in Europe and beyond.

Activities proposed within this topic should address the issue from various angles, combining both social research with technological development and applications in a logical manner. Therefore, this topic requires the effective contribution of SSH disciplines and the involvement of SSH experts, institutions as well as the inclusion of relevant SSH expertise, in order to produce meaningful and significant effects enhancing the societal impact of the related research activities. Proposals should also include research into the international dimensions of the trafficking of cultural goods, as well an as investigation of the possible connections between this and other forms of crime. Due to the specific scope of this topic, in order to achieve the expected outcomes, international cooperation is encouraged. Police Authorities, Border Guards Authorities and Customs Authorities should be involved in the consortia, in order to tackle effectively all aspects of this crime.

Coordination with successful proposals under topic HORIZON-CL3-2021-FCT-01-09, HORIZON-CL3-2021-FCT-01-10, HORIZON-CL3-2022-FCT-01-05, HORIZON-CL3-2022-FCT-01-06 and HORIZON-CL3-2022-FCT-01-07 as well as with successful proposals under topic HORIZON-CL2-HERITAGE-2021-01-08 (Preserving and enhancing cultural heritage with advanced digital technologies) should be envisaged so as to avoid duplication and to exploit complementarities as well as opportunities for increased impact. Proposed research that could also link with security research for border management (for example, border checks) would be an asset. If relevant, the proposed activities should attempt to complement the objectives and activities of the EU Policy Cycle (EMPACT) – Priority Organised Property Crime. If applicable and relevant, coordination with related activities in the Digital Europe Programme should be exploited too.

In this topic the integration of the gender dimension (sex and gender analysis) in research and innovation content is not a mandatory requirement.