Restitution of Istria‘s Treasures from Italy to Slovenia: The State of International Law and Practice ( Vračanje istrskih dragocenosti iz Italije v Slovenijo: stanje mednarodnega prava in prakse )
Key words: international law, cultural property, restitution, state succession, dispute resolution, Slovenia, Italy, Free Territory of Triest, Paris Peace Treaty with Italy, Osimo Treaty, Osimo Agreement
The aim of this paper is to address international law aspects of the issue of restitution of around 100 cultural treasures from Italy to Slovenia, taking into account contemporary international law and recent developments of state practice. The artworks were evacuated by Italy from Koper (Capodistria), Izola (Isola) and Piran (Pirano) in 1940 to be protected before the war, however, after the Second World War Italy refused to returned them to the places of their origin. Many of these artifacts were taken from Catholic Church parishes, monasteries or belonged to the Diocese of Koper. The purpose of this study is to identify applicable standards and procedures which could serve to encourage all actors involved, mainly Slovenian and Italian authorities, but also private owners, to move this outstanding issue from the standstill. A main conclusion of this study is that both States should search for a compromise, mutually acceptable solution by applying international treaties, including the principle of territorial provenance, but also several practical techniques and various contemporary state practice. One possible solution would be to reach an agreement that UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to Its Countries of Origin or Its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation would facilitate negotiations or mediate the case. Another option might be that other actors, i.e. Diocese of Koper, Franciscans or Minorites, would undertake negotiations regarding the restitution of particular, most important artworks.