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According to the Article 42 of The Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, the State shall support culture and science, and shall take care of the protection of Lithuanian historical, artistic, and other cultural monuments, as well as other culturally valuable objects.
The mission of the State in the area of immovable cultural heritage is to preserve cultural heritage of Lithuania and pass it on to future generations as a guarantee of survival of the national identity, an integral part of landscape and a means of formation of Lithuania's image by providing conditions for the society to get to know and use it.
The national policy of the protection of immovable cultural heritage is formulated by the Seimas (The Parliament of Lithuania), the Government and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania having regard to the assessments, analyses and proposals of heritage protection experience and tendencies as submitted by the State Commission for Cultural Heritage.
The Minister of Culture organises the state administration of the protection of immovable cultural heritage, movable cultural properties and is in charge thereof.
Municipalities perform certain functions assigned thereto by the Law on local self-Government and national acts of law.
The Department of Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter – the Department) performs and is in charge of the implementation of specific functions of the state administration of immovable cultural heritage and movable cultural properties. The Department is accountable to the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania. Currently, the structure of the Department consists of 6 divisions: the Heritage Management and Planning Division, the Control Division with a subordinate Subdivision of Cultural Properties Exported Abroad, the Heritage Registry, Public Relations and Education Division, the Legal Division with a Personnel Administration and Documents Subdivision, the Accounting and Accountability Division, the Administration Division as well as 10 territorial divisions located in each county.
The Department is also a founder of the state-funded institution – the Centre of Cultural Heritage, which collects and accumulates information on cultural heritage as well as conducts historical and physical research. State enterprise, Monuments of Lithuania, responsible for management of conservation, restoration works, design and applied researches, is also subordinate to the Department.
Immovable cultural property is registered in the Register of Cultural Property after immovable cultural heritage assessment councils, formed by the Department and municipal institutions, decide that a property (an individual object, complex object or a site) is in need of protection.
There are four immovable cultural properties that are inscribed on the UNESCO World heritage list:
- Vilnius Historic Centre (1994)
- Curonian Spit (2000)
- Kernavė Archeoligical Site (Cultural Reserve of Kernavė) (2004)
- Struvė Geodetic Arc (2005)
National laws in the field of cultural heritage:
- Law on Protection of Immovable Cultural Heritage
- Law on Protection of Movable Cultural Property
- Law on Protected Areas
- Law on Territorial Planning
- Resolution No. 1424 “On the approval of the Regulation for the export of movable cultural property and antiques from the Republic of Lithuania and the List of movable cultural property and antiques the export whereof from the Republic of Lithuania requires a permit issued by the Department of Cultural Heritage Protection under the Ministry of Culture
- Resolution No. 433 of 8 April 2003 of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania “On the approval of obligation of the Government’s of the Republic of Lithuania for procedure of movable cultural properties temporary importation to territory of republic of Lithuania from foreign countries”
- Resolution No. 1572 of 9 December 2003 of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania “On the approval of the procedure to issue the licenses for the antiques trade”
- Resolution No. 1480 of 27 November 2003 of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania “On the approval of the regulation of antiques trade”
- Resolution No. 1107 of 31 August 2004 of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania “On the procedure of return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a member state of the European Union”
International conventions ratified by The Republic of Lithuania:
- European Cultural Convention, 1954 (ratified in 1992)
- European Convention on the protection of the archaeological heritage, 1992 (ratified in 1998)
- Convention for the protection of the architectural heritage of Europe, 1985 (ratified in 1998)
- European Landscape Convention, 2000 (ratified in 2004)
- UNESCO Convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict and its Protocol, 1954 (ratified in 1956)
- UNESCO Second protocol to the Convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict and its Protocol, 1954 (ratified in 2001)
- UNESCO Convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property, 1970 (ratified in 1973)
- UNESCO Convention concerning the protection of world cultural and natural heritage, 1972 (ratified in 1974)
- UNESCO Convention on the protection of the underwater cultural heritage, 2001 (ratified in 2006)
- UNESCO Convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage, 2003 (ratified in 2004)
UNIDROIT Convention on stolen or illegally exported cultural objects, 1995 (ratified in 1997)