CAMPAIGNS: CAR focuses attention on WWII looting - Media Relations

Client: Commission for Art Recovery PR Team: Blueprint Partners, Brussels Campaign: Media support in Brussels and Strasbourg for European Parliamentary Hearing Timescale: March 2003 Budget: 20,000 euros (£14,000)

Pressure group the Commission for Art Recovery aims to bring about the restitution of cultural goods looted during World War II that have not been returned to their owners. It believes this shouldn't be prevented by legal technicalities.

CAR appointed Blueprint to manage media relations for a hearing of the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee on 18 March in Brussels.

MEPs wanted to hear from those affected by wartime cultural looting to help create a recourse for the restitution of plundered art works.

Objectives

To raise awareness among EU member states, candidate countries and other eastern European countries through Brussels-based media, and to draw attention to the hearing. To emphasise CAR's aim to restore legal certainty concerning the provenance of looted art works and formulate principles relating to restitution claims.

Strategy and Plan

Since this is a legal problem it needed a European solution. Europeans giving evidence, including Sotheby's head of European provenance research and restitution team Lucia Simmons, and Martha Nierenberg, an heir of the Herzog family whose art collection was appropriated by the Nazis, would be invited to speak to journalists.

The timing of the hearing - the day before the war in Iraq began - was awkward. Blueprint recommended a curtain raiser ahead of the hearing for the EU-watching press, and organised one-on-one briefings with journalists. A press conference wasn't held as journalists were being switched to cover the war.

Blueprint developed messages and a press pack in French and English.

A media briefing was held in Strasbourg the week before the hearing, and another issued in French and English a few days before the hearing.

Measurement and Evaluation

Despite the outbreak of war around 20 journalists attended the hearing and reports were broadcast by Hungarian, Slovenian, Slovakian, Ukrainian, Bosnian and Romanian TV and Swedish public radio.

Print coverage included La Libre Belgique, European Voice, the Jewish Chronicle, Le Monde, Jerusalem Post, German news agency EPD, Slobodna Dalmacija in Croatia and various other outlets in Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia via the Balkans news agency, SENSE.

'This is a very interesting story for the Balkans where most countries are trying to align to EU standards,' said Brussels bureau chief of Balkans news agency SENSE Ines Sabalic.

Results

Coverage could have been more widespread were it not for the start of the Iraq crisis.

'Under the circumstances we were very pleased with the interest and coverage,' says Blueprint partner Louise Harvey. 'But a story like this doesn't begin and end with a parliamentary hearing. We don't see what we did as a one-off, but as a successful first step.'

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