European Council includes cultural heritage among EU’s priorities for 2019-2024

At the European Council meeting on 20 June, EU Leaders adopted a new strategic agenda for the EU, setting out the policy priorities for the coming five years, and – for the first time – included investing in culture and cultural heritage among the EU’s overall priorities. This comes shortly after Europa Nostra’s President Maestro Placido Domingo wrote an open letter to all Heads of State or Government of the 28 EU Member States as well as to European Council President Donald Tusk and the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, urging them to “recognise the strategic value of our shared culture and cultural heritage for the future of Europe”.

The document finally adopted by the European Council – entitled ‘A New Strategic Agenda 2019-2024’ – presents four main priorities and how to deliver on them (1. Protecting citizens and freedoms, 2. Developing a strong and vibrant economic base, 3. Building a climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe, 4. Promoting European interests and values on the global stage). Cultural heritage is explicitly mentioned in the chapter on “Building a climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe” which ends with the strong affirmation “We will invest in culture and our cultural heritage, which are at the heart of our European identity.” This is a major step up from the Strategic Agenda adopted five years ago which does not even mention the word “culture”. Moreover, the Strategic Agenda 2019-2024 also confirms the importance of cooperation between the EU Institutions and civil society so as to be able to deliver on the agreed priorities by stating that “It will be important to engage with citizens, civil society and social partners, as well as with regional and local actors.”

Referring to how the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018, proclaimed by the EU, had “demonstrated the significance and potential of cultural heritage as a positive and cohesive resource for the future of Europe”, the Open Letter of Europa Nostra’s President had called on EU Leaders to “duly incorporate the lessons learned in the main EU priorities for the years to come”. Moreover, Europa Nostra’s President spelled out how and why cultural heritage should be included in all four pillars of the EU’s future strategic orientations. This Open Letter was sent individually all European Council members ahead of their meeting as well as for information to the Culture Ministers and the Ministers of European Affairs from all 28 EU Member States and to the European Commissioner for Culture, Tibor Navracsics.

 

Europa Nostra’s President Maestro Placido Domingo welcomed the inclusion of culture and cultural heritage among the EU’s priorities: “I am reassured to see that EU Leaders do not continue with business as usual. Today, Europe needs to change the tone, it needs a new narrative and a much stronger emphasis on our shared values which bring our citizens together. We must put our shared cultural heritage, along with culture and education, where they belong: at the very heart of the European project. It is what connects people, helps us sustain our social fabric, creates belonging to a common European space and – as a resource for our societies, economy, the environment and culture – is a key driver of sustainable development.”

Likewise, Europa Nostra’s Executive President Hermann Parzinger added: “We applaud EU leaders’ commitment to invest in culture and our cultural heritage. This is an excellent and much welcome continuation of what has been achieved during the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018. It also fully echoes one of the key demands of our Berlin Call to Action “Cultural Heritage for the Future of Europe” which called on EU Institutions to recognise heritage as a priority for European policies and funding. This is a major achievement for Europa Nostra and all citizens, volunteers, stakeholders and professionals committed to our shared cultural heritage.”

The inclusion of cultural heritage among the EU’s future priorities reached Europa Nostra’s Board and Council members shortly after their meetings in Athens, Greece. The adoption of Strategic Agenda is only the first step of key policy developments after the European elections in May 2019, and Europa Nostra is committed to follow up closely so as to contribute to its implementation over the coming months and years. Europa Nostra’s Secretary General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović stated “For Europa Nostra, this is a significant victory which we welcome with a shared sense of accomplishment. I am very proud to see that Europa Nostra’s voice has such a strong resonance all across Europe. We also count on the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the EU, as well as on the Croatian and German EU Presidencies in 2020 for integrating this new priority swiftly into the Council’s work. We, of course, stand ready to work with the EU institutions, especially the Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission. The European Cultural Heritage Summit scheduled for 27-30 October 2019 in Paris will provide for an excellent opportunity to renew our appeal to EU Leaders to live up to the expectations of so many heritage stakeholders, citizens and communities who care for our shared cultural heritage.”

Background

The main role of the European Council is to set the EU’s political agenda and to determine the longer-term strategic agenda of the EU for different priority areas. It is composed of the Heads of State or Government of the 28 EU Member States, the President of the European Council (Donald Tusk) and the President of the European Commission (Jean-Claude Juncker). During the meeting on 20 June, EU Leaders also discussed nominations for the EU’s top jobs but there was no majority for any candidate. These talks will be continued at a Special European Council on 30 June 2019. The European Council will soon elect a new President and also nominate a candidate for the President of the European Commission.

Thumbnail photo: © European Union

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