Minister of Culture Sam Tanson (middle) presents the new Cultural Heritage Bill; Credit: MCULT

Luxembourg has introduced a "Cultural Heritage Bill" providing a modernised legal framework for its archaeological, architectural, movable and intangible cultural heritage.

Following the Cabinet's approval, Luxembourg Minister of Culture Sam Tanson introduced the bill on 22 July 2019. Indeed, this draft law will provide a unique legal framework for the Grand Duchy's cultural heritage by introducing provisions covering both archaeological and architectural heritage and movable and intangible heritage. The text aims to ensure the conservation and protection of cultural heritage for future generations.

In parallel with a modernisation of legal provisions relating to cultural heritage, the Cultural Heritage Bill intends to implement the provisions of international texts ratified by Luxembourg, as well as European texts in this area.

More specifically, in terms of archaeological heritage, the bill has introduced the principle of "rescue archaeology", according to which construction projects located in an archaeological observation zone must, under certain conditions, be submitted beforehand to the Minister of Culture for a archaeological assessment. By introducing the archaeological assessment procedure, the bill intends to provide planners with greater predictability in the context of proposed works. 

In addition, the protection of Luxembourg's architectural heritage will undergo a paradigm shift which is divided into three main parts. Firstly, the bill will introduce an inventory of architectural heritage that accurately records, with appropriate documentation, the immovable property that forms part of this architectural heritage. Secondly, the text intends to legally devote the scientific criteria on the basis of which a building is inscribed on the inventory of architectural heritage and on the basis of which a building is classified as national cultural heritage or integrated in a protected sector of national interest. Thirdly, the ranking procedure itself is adapted for greater coherence and better recognition of public opinion.

The text thus provides that architectural heritage is protected at the municipal level on the basis of this inventory and in accordance with Grand Ducal regulations rather than the current ministerial and Cabinet orders. A public inquiry procedure is foreseen in the framework of the procedure of adoption of these regulations for the classification of buildings as national cultural heritage and the creation of protected areas of national interest. It should also be noted that the text intends to further strengthen the legal certainty of owners by providing for the removal of the supplementary inventory. A ten-year transitional period will be put in place during the elaboration and finalisation of the architectural heritage inventory.

Regarding movable heritage, the bill provides for a new procedure for the classification of cultural property, as well as a modern circulation system that implements international and European legal texts and replaces current rules. In addition, the bill extends to areas that national legislation did not previously cover, such as state and restitution guarantees. Similarly, the archival protection regime (classification and export) has been integrated into the text.

The bill has also conferred legal recognition to intangible heritage (traditions, know-how, etc.) in the form of an inventory and protection measures.

Finally, the bill foresees various institutional measures. For instance, the National Centre for Archaeological Research has been granted the status of the State Cultural Institute, whilst the National Sites and Monuments Service has become the National Institute of Architectural Heritage.