If foreign cultural property is to be loaned for an exhibition in Germany, the lender is often concerned, in view of the often very eventful acquisition history of art objects, that third parties could make claims during the stay of this cultural property in Germany, the assertion of which in court could prevent a return as agreed. This can result in loan commitments or export permits not being granted. In order to dispel such concerns, the lender can be given a "legally binding promise of return" prior to the import of its cultural property, the effect of which is that the lender's claim for return cannot be countered by any rights asserted by third parties in respect of the cultural property.
In order to obtain a legally binding return commitment, which is often a prerequisite for the issuance of an export permit in the case of loan transactions, the borrowing institution (regardless of its legal nature, e.g. also private institutions) can apply for the issuance of the return commitment before importation into the federal territory to the competent supreme state authority of the state in which the exhibition is to take place.
In Bavaria, this is the Bavarian State Ministry for Science and Art. Before issuing the return commitment, the supreme state authority must obtain the consent of the central federal agency, the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.
The granting of the return commitment has the consequence that legal actions or other judicial measures to temporarily secure the cultural property during a stay in Germany are inadmissible. This means that the timely return of the cultural property to the lender cannot be prevented by measures taken by third parties. Once the promise of return has been given, it cannot be withdrawn for the period stated in it.