THE INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE OF THE NATIONAL SOCIETIES FOR THE PROTECTION OF CULTURAL ASSETS
The first “Society for the Protection of Cultural Assets” was founded in Switzerland on May 14th 1964, action promoted by the Military General Headquarters. The opportunity was offered by the 10-year anniversary of the ratification of the Hague Convention by Switzerland. Its main objective was the dissemination of the Convention among the military and civilians so as to make sure that each citizen might take the best measures when need be regarding the protection of cultural assets. The present headquarters of the Swiss society is in FRIBOURG.
On November 27th 1980, “The Austrian Society for the Protection of the Cultural Assets” was founded in Vienna. Its first chairman was the Brigadier General Roman Schlauss, who, during the Second World War, was a pilot in the German army. As a sub-lieutenant, he fought in the so-called “Gothic Line” Between two flights, as ordered by the lieutenant colonel Schlessinger, he transferred the famous library of the Montecassino Abbey. The library had been transferred before the abbey fell under the English bombs. The purpose of the society was the same: the appropriate dissemination of the principles of the Hague Convention and of its successive alterations among the military and the civilians. The present central office of the Austrian society is in VIENNA..
The societies in East and West Germany were established in the mid-80s of the 20th century. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the two societies were united, and on January 22nd 1993 “The German Society for the Protection of Cultural Assets” was born. Its action models were really interesting, integrating military and civilian policies, although the object of activity was the same: dissemination of the principles of the Hague Convention (1954) and of its successive modifications. The German society has its headquarters in BAMBERG.
“The Italian Society for the Protection of Cultural Assets” was created on April 18th la 1996 in Viterbo. The goals of the Italian society are oriented towards two directions: dissemination, among the civilians and armymen, of the principles and precepts of the Hague Convention of May 1954 regarding the protection of cultural assets (Convention ratified by Italy on February 7th 1957) and the promotion and support of any effort in view of adopting measures of protection and preservation of national cultural assets during war or natural disasters.
As a result of the commitment and efforts of Brigadier General Gino Arcioni – chairman of the Swiss society, and of the unanimous agreement of the Austrian, German and Italian Societies, on May 13th 1997 (33 years since the “birth” of the Convention regarding cultural assets), The International League of the National Societies for the Protection of Cultural Assets was bon in FRIBOURG.
On the occasion of the symposium of the Italian society that took place in Civitavecchia during the period April 3rd – 5th 1998 The Romanian Society, through Ribana Balan, filed the necessary documents for the acceptance of the Romanian Society in the League. This happened through the unanimous vote of the chairmen of the founding societies, and thus the Romanian society was the first society accepted in the League since its establishment.
In 1999 the Spanish Society for the Protection of Cultural Assets was created. The goals of this society are identical with those of the other societies and its headquarters are located in MADRID.
In the capacity of observer, the League has at present representatives from France and Portugal, where similar societies are under establishment.
The purpose of the League results from the very establishment statute: “The League supports the efforts and activities of the national societies for the protection of cultural assets, based on the stipulations of the Hague Convention of May 14th 1954 and carried on within the limits of the international law provisions, related to the protection of cultural assts; it studies efficient modalities of preserving and protecting cultural assets and provides information to the interested entities; it ensures the flow of the international exchange of expertise performed by experts; it aims at providing a co-ordination of the activities focused on the protection of cultural assets; is has close relations with international organisations acting in the field of culture preservation (UNESCO, EUROPARAT, etc.) and with the official bodies provided in the Hague Convention; it organises international symposiums and supports the national institutions of cultural assets protection to disseminate the stipulations in the field.
After several rounds of negotiations during the meetings of the present members of the League’s Board of Executives of the ( April 3rd 2003, ANCONA – ITALY; May 15th 2003, ZUOZ – SWITZERLAND; October 5th 2003 BAILE HERCULANE – ROMANIA and November 9th 2003, VIENNA AUSTRIA), the new Statute of the LEAGUE was adopted in its final form and signed on May 14th 2004 in FRIBOURG, by all the chairmen of the national societies grouped in the League i.e. the societies of SWITZERLAND, AUSTRIA, GERMANY, ITALY, ROMANIA and SPAIN. This event took place exactly 50 years since the promotion of the HAGUE Convention, which lies at the basis of the entire activity carried on by the LEAGUE.
Certainly, the activity of the League will not be placed under the authority of international organisations such as the UNO and the NATO, nor of certain national governments, neither will it intersect with the preoccupations of such official bodies. The national societies remain completely accountable for the adoption of the best measures regarding different aspects of the humanitarian law, in the treatment of war victims, as well as the protection of cultural assets, general aspects comprised by the humanitarian law.
This does not mean that we do not aim at co-operating with them. At present efforts are made to ensure that officials of the League could be integrated in the future into the preparation of NATO, UNO and UEO military operations and missions. In the same context, the League is negotiating a relation with UNESCO in order to be granted the status of observer. For the beginning the status of operational relations is preferred. This status would have the following advantages: exchange of different documentation and documents, invitations as observer at special UNESCO congresses and meetings; invitations at the conferences of the NGOs; a better understanding in the carrying on of projects by the national societies as a results of the support provided by the UNESCO. The status of operational relations will last for maximum four years during which the activity of the League will be monitored, and eventually the General Director of UNESCO will decide the way in which the relations of the UNESCO with the League will develop.
Among the initial activities of the League we may mention the implementation, in 2003, of the proposal of the Austrian Society, to issue and send to certain national and international governmental institutions a petition meant to avoid the Iraqi attack, regarded from the perspective of the destruction of vestiges and monuments of universal value.
Obviously, but not at all naturally, the petition was not taken into consideration, and the results are now of public knowledge.
The issue of expanding is not neglected either. At present the League has contacts with specialists from France, Portugal, the Netherlands and Yugoslavia providing them support in establishing the respective national societies of protection of cultural assets, societies that are to adhere to the League in the future.
Each chairman of a national society has an appropriate awareness of the situation in his / her country and has his /her own sensitivity regarding this issue. Consequently, of the own initiative, he / she will adopt the adequate measures meant to improve the activities carried on according to the operation statute. If necessary, he / she will act also in the domain of dissemination, will organise training courses for the army, will impose sanctions according to the Military Code or will adopt the appropriate measures in the spirit of the Hague Convention.
In the field of dissemination, one intends to publish a brochure comprising the Hague Convention and its two Additional Protocols, in all the languages of wide circulation, that should have a uniform symbolic design. It will be published in over 500,000 copies in each country member of the League.
The initiation of this action is the responsibility of the Romanian society.
As for the League, we may conclude that it acts in each situation in full accordance with the national legislation specific to the respective member country, and also according to the international legislation settling the activity of protection of cultural assets.
among the initial activities of the League we may mention the implementation