On the 21st of November 2023, OPFA-CULT organized its final event that brought the project to a close. In total, over 30 participants took part in the final event, both online and on-site, including Consortium partners, representatives from the European Commission and Law Enforcement Agencies all over the European Union. In total representatives from 18 Law Enforcement Agencies across 15 countries attended the event, including Europol.
The day kicked-off with opening remarks by Lt. Col. Andrea Ilari, from the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage and Project Director of OPFA-CULT, followed by a presentation from Celine Chazelas-Baur, Policy Officer of DG HOME, which outlined the EU’s Action Plan against trafficking in Cultural Goods.
The day continued with the overview of the achievements of the OPFA-CULT project, including the activities carried out under the Operational Facility and the three workshops. The consortium partners; Chief W.O. Antonella Spagnuolo from the Carabinieri Command for the protection of Cultural Heritage, Mr Paulo Roquete from GOPA PACE and Col. Iulian Ginju from the Romanian Gendarmerie, presented the activities performed remarkable results obtained during the two-year project.
Additionally a session was devoted to the presentation of the OPFA-CULT Operational Handbook for Law Enforcement Agencies, which was delivered by Col. Iulian Ginju from the Romanian Gendarmerie and Mrs. Maria Illetterati from SAFE Foundation. This Operational Handbook is aimed at providing an operational tool accessible to LEAs, to support their daily operations in the fight against illicit traffic of cultural goods. Overall, the Handbook is divided in 8 sections, which highlight the legal basis, techniques and best practices as implemented by Law Enforcement Agencies in the protection of cultural heritage, as well as the challenges and opportunities presented by international judicial cooperation. The handbook was disseminated to Law Enforcement Agencies after the final event in a digital and paperback version.
The event ended with concluding remarks by speakers Ms. Federica Genna (SAFE Foundation) and Lt. Col. Andrea Illari ( Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage). The concluding remarks summarised the life span of the project, identifying and discussing the positive aspects, as well as lessons learned.
Overall, the final event offered interesting insights into the main achievement of the project both from the perspective of the Consortium Partners as well as the LEAs involved in the project’s activities. Specifically, the presentations offered the possibility for the attendees to have a broad overview of the key results obtained from the implementation of the project’s activities, namely the Facility, the Workshops and the Operational Handbook for Law Enforcement Agencies. The speakers highlighted the significant lessons learned and identified best practices and challenges faced during the implementation of the activities. Furthermore, thanks to the exchange between the LEAs, the final event was a remarkable opportunity to discuss the main gaps at the EU level in the protection of cultural heritage, with the aim of identifying primary areas of intervention in the long-term to support the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural heritage.
The event at hand marked the end of the OPFA-CULT project, but not the conclusion of the efforts in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural goods. Indeed, the network created during the two-year project has paved the way for a stronger collaboration at the EU level between LEAs to effectively fight illicit trafficking of cultural goods at the cross-country level, and to harmonize national capabilities in the field.
OPFA-CULT Final Event – as well as all of its activities and deliverables – were co-financed by the Internal Security Fund-Police from DG HOME.