2018+ signatures of Berlin Call to Action handed over to the European Commission

With the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 drawing to a close, policy-makers and stakeholders have repeatedly stressed the need to ensure a lasting legacy for this thematic year and the many initiatives launched across Europe. One major bottom-up instrument to building the legacy is the Berlin Call to Action “Cultural Heritage for the Future of Europe” first published at the European Cultural Heritage Summit in June 2018. Back then, Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović from Europa Nostra and Uwe Koch from the German Cultural Heritage Committee (DNK) had presented this key document to the public with the words “time for action is now!”.

Now, almost six months later, they appeared jointly on stage again at the official Closing Conference of the European Year of Cultural Heritage on 7 December in Vienna to reiterate their appeal. Together, Uwe Koch and Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović intervened during the closing session of the conference to hand over the symbolic number of 2,018 signatures of the Berlin Call to Action to Michel Magnier, Director for Culture and Creativity at the European Commission. Many of those who signed it were present at that moment in the conference hall in Vienna.

Before handing over the signatures, Uwe Koch from the German Cultural Heritage Committee took the floor to explain that the European Cultural Heritage Summit was the first of its kind. While demanding a tremendous effort, it was a ‘wonderful partnership’ between the organising co-hosts and gave an important signal of mobilisation by gathering 1,500 participants. He explained: ‘We presented Berlin Call as an agreement how we can carry over the momentum created by the European Year of Cultural Heritage beyond 2018 into the future’ and took this opportunity to thank the Austrian Presidency and colleagues for providing such a great atmosphere at the closing conference.

He was joined by Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović from Europa Nostra who added: ‘It is very important to know that we have not stopped collecting signatures. This is an ongoing movement and an ongoing campaign.’ She also expressed appreciation of the ambitious European Framework for Action on Cultural Heritage unveiled that day by the European Commission: ‘While the year is ending, our action is only starting now, like an ouverture of a Grand Opera.’ She made a strong plea to all those who have not yet signed the Berlin Call and expressed her belief that the number of signatures should be tripled. Last but not least, Europa Nostra’s Secretary General thanked all those who contributed to such a great success of the European Year of Cultural Heritage – the task force for the European Year at the European Commission, the European Parliament, the stakeholders’ committee and all national coordinators.

Upon receipt of the impressive number of signatures, Michel Magnier from the European Commission voiced that he also had been taken by surprise by the momentum created by the European Year. The Commission was determined to build on this momentum with the European Framework for Action on Cultural Heritage presented the same morning: ‘This year was about partnership and this action plan should also be about partnership.’ By way of illustrating the teamwork that coordinated the year at European level, Catherine Magnant, Head of the task force for the European Year at the European Commission, came on stage to present in more details the European Framework for Action. She also paid tribute to all the colleagues in her team: Michel Magnier, Erminia Sciacchitano, Dorota Nigge, Lorena Aldana Ortega, Anne Grady, Chiara Bellani, Anna Rydholm, who helped organise this year so smoothly and successfully.

Background information

The Berlin Call to Action has already been signed by more than 2.100 citizens and organisations. Thanks to a campaign supported by Europa Nostra’s wide European network, the document was translated into an impressive number of 23 European languages. Ranging from Albanian to Ukrainian, the translations are all available for download online and more are yet to come, including Lithuanian, Macedonian and Turkish.

Drafted with the input from key stakeholder groups like the national coordinators for the European Year, the EYCH 2018 Stakeholders’ Committee, the European Heritage Alliance 3.3 as well as the German Cultural Heritage Committee (DNK) and Board and Council members of Europa Nostra, the Berlin Call to Action also called for an ambitious European Action Plan for Cultural Heritage, as announced by the European Commission in early 2018.

The handover of the signatures was all the more timely because this eagerly expected ‘European Action Plan for Cultural Heritage’ was presented earlier on the same day by European Commissioner Tibor Navracsics in Vienna.

Ahead of the Closing Conference in Vienna, Europa Nostra’s President Maestro Plácido Domingo had written a letter to Austrian Minister of Culture Gernot Blümel, asking to present and hand over the total number of signatures of the Berlin Call to Action on this occasion to the Austrian Presidency. In his reply, Minister Blümel congratulated Europa Nostra on the successful European Cultural Heritage Summit in Berlin and stressed that ‘The “Berlin Call to Action: Cultural Heritage for the Future of Europe” is an important result of the Summit that will be an inspiration and have an impact also on the future cultural heritage policy in Europe.’ With regard to Europa Nostra’s request, the Minister confirmed that they would include the Berlin Call in the conference ‘as a crucial milestone of the European Year of Cultural Heritage’.

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