Protection of the national cultural heritage is guaranteed in the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania (Articles 42, 47, 54).
The objects of immovable cultural and natural heritage are protected under the Law on Protection of Immovable Cultural Heritage (1994), the Law on Planning of Territories (1995) and the Law on Protected Territories (1993).
The Law on Protection of Immovable Cultural Heritage (1994) implements the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, International Treaties and the Laws of the National Security Framework in the field of protection of immovable cultural heritage. It also establishes the legal basis for accounting, preservation and management of immovable cultural heritage located in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania as well as principles of the monitoring of the condition of cultural heritage objects. The Law also protects sites and other property associated with immovable cultural heritage.
The Law on Planning of Territories (1995) regulates the planning of the territories of the Republic of Lithuania, the Continental Shelf and the Exclusive Economic Zone in the Baltic Sea and establishes the rights and obligations of persons involved in this process. The purpose of this Law is to ensure the harmonious development of territories and the rational urbanisation by establishing requirements for systematic spatial planning, compatibility of documents of different levels, as well as to create conditions for harmony of natural and anthropogenic environment and urban quality while preserving valuable landscape, biodiversity, natural and cultural heritage.
The Law on Protected Areas (1993) regulates the system of protected areas, the legal bases for the designation and establishment of protected areas, change of their borders and status, as well as the protection, management and control of these territories. In 2003, the Law was amended in order to incorporate the regulations of territories of international importance, including the European ecological network Natura 2000.
The Law on the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage (1996) establishes the administration of the protection of movable cultural heritage; the accounting and storage of movable cultural property; the principles of the change of ownership and control of cultural objects; the exportation of movable cultural property and antiques from and importation into the Republic of Lithuania; and the return of illegally exported cultural objects. The Law was amended in 2009 by changing the definition of the “movable cultural property”. The new definition defines it as “material creations and other objects which are movable based on their designation and nature, hold cultural value and are listed in the State inventories of movable cultural property”. In 2016, the Law was amended by adding new terms of “Member State of the European Union”, “Return of cultural object”, “Cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of the Republic of Lithuania, Member State of the European Union or a third country”, etc. The introduction of new terms is linked to the alignment of the Law with the Directive 2014/60/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a Member State.
The Law of the National Commission for Cultural Heritage (2004) establishes the Heritage Commission, which is an expert and advisor to the Lithuanian Parliament, President and Government regarding the national policy of cultural heritage protection, its implementation, evaluation and improvement.
The Law on Museums (1995) regulates the system, classification and types of museums, their establishment, operation, closure and reorganisation, the accounting and protection of museum property and other relations connected to the operation of museums. To enhance the efficiency and quality of museums’ activity and improve museum legislation, on 23 December 2013 the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania passed an Amendment to the Law on Museums by introducing a five-year term of office for the directors of national and state museums. On 3 May 2016, the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania supplemented the Law with Article 71 by empowering a head of a national, state and municipal museum to confer the title of curator emeritus on museum workers with a solid professional experience, who were actively involved in work and creative activity but terminated their employment contract with a national, state and municipal museum.
The Law on the State Protection of Ethnic Culture (1999) establishes the general principles of state protection of the Lithuanian ethnic culture, measures and conditions for the protection and continuity, development and enrichment of ethnic culture. The law also regulates the protection of ethnic heritage.
The Law on Documents and Archives (1995) aims to provide the legal basis for the effective management of documents in order to ensure transparency and accountability of the activities of legal entities and to safeguard the legitimate interests of the persons in concern. The law also regulates the accumulation and administration of the national Documentation Fund in order to preserve the state’s documentary heritage, memory and national identity.