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The apparently endless saga of France’s pitiful attempts to respond to European Union pressure to end the domestic auction monopoly of commissaires-priseurs took a further twist when it was announced in Paris on February 26 that the decrits d’application, the “decrees” detailing the practical aspects of the new law, would not be published until May at the earliest.

The decrees are slated to be vetted by France’s supreme legal authority, the Conseil d’Etat, on March 15, although there are fears that this may be delayed (the Conseil faces a reported backlog due to the complex legislation currently under review with regard to the legal status of Corsica).

The new timetable almost certainly means that foreign auctioneers will be unable to sell in France before the autumn. Sotheby’s French supremo Laure de Beauvau-Craon, whose efforts were instrumental in obtaining EU support for the end of the commissaires-priseurs’ monopoly, is dismayed at the prospect of further delays. “I no longer dare announce any date for our first sale in Paris,” she told the Antiques Trade Gazette, adding fatalistically: “We’re just waiting to see how things pan out.” With an eye on recent blips on the Stock Exchange, she expressed concern that the reform would not come into effect at the most propitious moment for the French market, but during a period of economic uncertainty or downturn.