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Country Summary for SWITZERLAND

I.  Relevant Legislation
II.  Regulated Cultural Property


'Cultural property'—significant property from a religious or universal standpoint for archaeology, pre-history, history, literature, arts or sciences belonging to the categories under Article 1 of the UNESCO Convention of 1970. These categories include:
(a) Rare collections and specimens of fauna, flora, minerals and anatomy, and objects of palaeontological interest;
(b) property relating to history, including the history of science and technology and military and social history, to the life of national leaders, thinkers, scientists and artist and to events of national importance;
(c) products of archaeological excavations (including regular and clandestine) or of archaeological discoveries;
(d) elements of artistic or historical monuments or archaeological sites which have been dismembered;
(e) antiquities more than one hundred years old, such as inscriptions, coins and engraved seals;
(f) objects of ethnological interest;
(g) property of artistic interest, such as:
(i) pictures, paintings and drawings produced entirely by hand on any support and in any material (excluding industrial designs and manufactured articles decorated by hand);
(ii) original works of statuary art and sculpture in any material;
(iii) original engravings, prints and lithographs;
(iv) original artistic assemblages and montages in any material;
(h) rare manuscripts and incunabula, old books, documents and publications of special interest (historical, artistic, scientific, literary, etc.) singly or in collections;
(i) postage, revenue and similar stamps, singly or in collections;
(j) archives, including sound, photographic and cinematographic archives;
(k) articles of furniture more than one hundred years old and old musical instruments.

'Cultural heritage'—the entirety of cultural property belonging to one of the categories under Article 4 of the UNESCO Convention 1970. These categories include:
(a) Cultural property created by the individual or collective genius of nationals of the State concerned, and cultural property of importance to the State concerned created within the territory of that State by foreign nationals or stateless persons resident within such territory;
(b) cultural property found within the national territory;
(c) cultural property acquired by archaeological, ethnological or natural science missions, with the consent of the competent authorities of the country of origin of such property;
(d) cultural property which has been the subject of a freely agreed exchange;
(e) cultural property received as a gift or purchased legally with the consent of the competent authorities of the country of origin of such property. (CPTA Art. 2)

'Contracting states'—states having ratified the UNESCO Convention of 1970.

'Specialized body'—administrative body responsible for executing the tasks outlined in Art. 18.
(CPTA, Art. 2)

“Persons active in the art trade and auctioning business”—
(1) Persons domiciled in Switzerland and companies headquartered in Switzerland that are required to register in the trade registry and either acquire cultural property for the purpose of selling it for their own account, or trade in cultural property for third-party accounts;
(2) Persons domiciled abroad and companies headquartered abroad that are active in more than ten transactions with cultural property and sales in excess of Swiss Francs 100,000 in one calendar year and that either acquire cultural property for the purpose of selling it for their own account, or trade in cultural property for third-party accounts. (CPTO, Art. 1)

Relevant State Agencies

The Federal Office of Culture (FOC) regulates the transfer of cultural property and operates the specialized body. (CPTO, Art. 28)


Cultural property of the Swiss Confederation of significant importance for the cultural heritage is registered in the Federal Registry.

The registration has the following effect:
(a) cultural property may neither be acquired by adverse possession nor acquired in good faith;
(b) the claim for return is not subject to a statute of limitation;
(c) the definitive export of the cultural property from Switzerland is prohibited.

The registration of cultural property in the Federal Registry may be removed, to the extent that:
(a) the cultural property no longer has a significant importance to the cultural heritage;
(b) consolidation speaks in favor of an ensemble;
(c) the Confederation loses its title to the cultural property or waives the same.

The specialized body operates the Federal Registry in the form of an electronic database and publishes the same. (CPTA, Art. 3, paras. 1-4)

Persons active in the art trade and auctioning business are obliged:
(a) to establish the identity of the supplier or seller and require a written declaration from the same of his or her right to dispose of the cultural property;
(b) to inform their customers about existing import and export regulations of the contracting states;
(c) to maintain written records on the acquisition of cultural property by specifically recording the origin of the cultural property, to the extent known, and the name and address of the supplier or seller, a description as well as the sales price of the cultural property;
(d) to provide to the specialized body all necessary information on fulfilling this duty of diligence.

The records and receipts must be stored for 30 years. (CPTA, Art. 16, paras. 2 & 3)

Obligations pursuant to CPTA, Arts. 15-17 do not apply to cultural property with a sale price or appraised value on transactions for third-party accounts of less than 5,000 Swiss Francs (CHF). However, these obligations do apply, regardless of price, to any trade in cultural property of the following categories:
(a) results of archaeological or palaeontological excavations or discoveries;
(b) portions of dismembered artistic or historical monuments or portions of excavation sites;
(c) ethnological objects, specifically those items used for sacral or profane rituals. (CPTO, Arts. 2 & 3)

III.  Export Restrictions

IV.  Ownership Rights and Restrictions

V.  Violations, Penalties and Sanctions

VI.  International Conventions and Bilateral Agreements
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Country Contact
for Cultural Property
Federal Office of Culture Specialized Body for the International Transfer of Cultural Property
Hallwylstrasse 15
3003 Bern
Ph: +41 31 322 03 25
F: +41 31 324 85 87