European Commission proposes European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018

The day of 19 April 2016 shall be remembered as a historic day for our ever-growing European movement for cultural heritage. During the opening session of the bi-annual European Culture Forum in Brussels, Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, publicly announced that the European Commission will propose to the EU Council and the European Parliament that 2018 will be the European Year of Cultural Heritage, following an exchange of letters between President Jean-Claude Juncker and President Martin Schulz (click here for the address made by Commissioner Navracsics).

EU Commissioner Navracsics and MEP Silvia Costa being congratulated by Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra, Dr Uwe Koch from the German Cultural Heritage Committee, and other members of the European Heritage Alliance 3.3, at the European Cultural Forum. Photo: Europa Nostra

EU Commissioner Navracsics and MEP Silvia Costa being congratulated by Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra, Dr Uwe Koch from the German Cultural Heritage Committee, and other members of the European Heritage Alliance 3.3, at the European Cultural Forum. Photo: Europa Nostra

This announcement was followed by a powerful and engaged speech by Silvia Costa, MEP, who is the Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education of the European Parliament. Silvia Costa has been one of the main supporters of the proposed Year within the European Parliament and is in close dialogue with all stakeholders concerned. “Culture and cultural heritage should be the new soul and new identity for a new Europe,” concluded Silvia Costa. In the afternoon, the Italian Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, also expressed the full support of his government to the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018.

Europa Nostra’s Vice-President Piet Jaspaert and Secretary General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović have had the great pleasure to attend the European Cultural Forum and to witness this important public announcement. Representatives from other European Networks working in the wider field of heritage, who are members of our European Heritage Alliance 3.3, also participated in the Forum.

“Together we have had the opportunity to congratulate in person Commissioner Navracsics and MEP Silvia Costa immediately after their speeches on their decisive leadership and commitment to rallying the support of the European Commission and European Parliament for the proposed European Year of Cultural Heritage. We also assured these high-level representatives from the EU Institutions that the civil society networks and organisations active in the field of heritage stand ready to contribute to the implementation of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018 with creativity and energy. During the plenary session of the European Heritage Alliance 3.3., held on the eve of the European Culture Forum (18 April – World Heritage Day!), at the Europa Nostra’s Brussels Office, we had a preliminary discussion on the main messages we hope to convey, the tools we intend to use, as well as the outcomes which we aim to achieve during the Year,” stated Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović in a special message sent today to the wide network of Europa Nostra.

Europa Nostra and its President, Maestro Plácido Domingo, applaud this important development at this high level of the European Union, which is a remarkable achievement for us all, but also an immense responsibility. “We look forward to celebrating the future European Year of Cultural Heritage, together with Commissioner Navracsics, with many members and partners, and together with proud laureates of our European Heritage Awards run in partnership with the European Commission, on the occasion of our forthcoming European Heritage Congress which will be held in Madrid on 22-27 May. We therefore hope that you will join us in Madrid in big numbers where we will have the opportunity to continue our discussion on the ways in which we can ensure that the European Year of Cultural Heritage will serve as a platform for connecting and amplifying many excellent heritage initiatives – local, regional, national and European – which have already been developed across Europe,” affirmed the President of Europa Nostra.

At a time when the European Union is confronted with a wide range of political, economic and social challenges, and at a time when the entire European project is threatened by alarming forms of extremism and Euroscepticism, the decision to declare 2018 as the European Year of Cultural Heritage has a very special meaning and significance, both for the European Union Institutions and Member States and for Europe’s communities and citizens.

“Therefore we now wish to reach out to each and every member of our wide European family, to listen carefully to your views, concerns, dreams and ideas, and to invite you to get actively engaged in the exciting process ahead of us. Let us have a regular and creative dialogue in the months to come which we shall gladly bring to the due attention of policy and decision makers in Europe and incorporate as much as possible in Europa Nostra’s 3-year strategic and action plan for 2017-2019 with the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 at its heart”, emphasised the Secretary General of Europa Nostra.

Background Information on the European Year of Cultural Heritage Initiative

The initiative to dedicate a European Year to Cultural Heritage was initially proposed by the German Cultural Heritage Committee (Deutsches Nationalkomitee fur Denkmalschutz, DNK), on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the European Year of Architectural Heritage which was organised in 1975 under the auspices of the Council of Europe. From the outset, this initiative received strong and active support from the Reflection Group on ‘EU and Cultural Heritage’ as well as Europa Nostra and other members of the European Heritage Alliance 3.3.

The proposal was subsequently positively received by the EU Institutions and a reference was included in the Council Conclusions on ‘Participatory governance of Cultural Heritage’, adopted under the Italian Presidency on 25 November 2014, as well as in the European Parliament Resolution ‘Towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage for Europe’, which was adopted by a large majority in plenary on 8 September 2015.

On 13 November 2015 in Berlin, top-level politicians, EU and international officials and civil society representatives gathered at an event co-organised by the German National Heritage Committee to demonstrate strong support for the proposed European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018 among governmental and non-governmental structures throughout Europe and beyond. This event was also organised to present the concept note entitled ‘Sharing Heritage!‘ adopted by the Reflection Group “EU & Cultural Heritage” during its last meeting in Luxembourg at the end of September.

On this occasion, Prof. Dr. Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Heritage Foundation and Council Member of Europa Nostra, stressed that Europe should not focus narrowly on the economic benefits of cultural heritage but embrace it as “an investment in society, contributing to the better understanding of other cultures and to the building of bridges between peoples”. The focus of the European Year should not be ‘shared heritage’ but rather ‘sharing heritage’ which entails a continued commitment to working together. In this respect, he also highlighted the key role to be played by civil society organisations and large European networks such as Europa Nostra in organising a successful European Year of Cultural Heritage.

The German Government and the German Heritage organisations concerned published today a press release welcoming the decision of the European Commission to propose the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018.

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