1st Costa Carras European Citizens Award presented to the Romanian NGO “A.R.A” in the presence of the President of the Hellenic Republic

The ceremony for the presentation of the 1st  Costa Carras European Citizens Award for the Safeguard of Endangered Cultural and Natural Heritage took place on 26 April 2023, in the presence of H.E. President of the Hellenic Republic, Ms Katerina Sakellaropoulou.  Over 100 participants honoured the winner, the Romanian NGO “A.R.A”, and the memory of Costa Carras, founding President of Elliniki Etairia and long-time Vice-President of Europa Nostra. The award ceremony was organised within the framework of the Delphi Economic Forum 2023 and was moderated by Jimmy Jamar, Head of the Brussels Office of Europa Nostra.

The Award was given to the Romanian NGO  A.R.A – Architecture. Restoration. Archaeology for its exemplary work in mobilising citizens, locally and across the country, for the protection and promotion of Roșia Montană, in the region of Transylvania (Romania).

The Award was instituted this year by Europa Nostra and Elliniki Etairia for the Environment and Cultural Heritage (ELLET) in memory of Costa Carras, an iconic figure in the protection of the environment and cultural heritage in Greece as well as in Europe and beyond. Founding partners are the A.G. Leventis Foundation, the Delphi Economic Forum and the European Investment Bank Institute.

In her address, Europa Nostra’s Secretary General Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic pointed out: “By launching this European Award, we wish to perpetuate the memory of this great European who was always ahead of our time. A brilliant mind and legendary voice, who has been calling for “Paradigm Shifts” ever since he founded Elliniki Etairia together with his wife Lydia and a small group of visionaries 50 years ago! For Europa Nostra, this is also a symbolic gesture to honour the legacy of one of our greatest leaders, and this in the year in which we celebrate our 60th anniversary. But this Award is so much more than a tribute to our Costa, this is the way to encourage present and future generations of Europe’s citizens to follow the power of his example.”

Costa Carras European Citizens Award Ceremony at Delphi Economic Forum 2023

Andreas Zompanakis, Board Member of ELLET, highlighted everyone’s satisfaction with the establishment of this important Award that celebrates the life and work of Costa Carras and is an inspiration for those who continue his work. He also recalled Costa Carras’ “deep belief in the transformative power of civil society”.

Symeon Tsomokos, Founder and President of the Delphi Economic Forum, thanked the Secretary General of Europa Nostra, Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, and the President of the Elliniki Etairia, Lydia Carras, and referred to the work of Costas Carras with warm words: “Costa has been undoubtedly a particularly rare bright personality – a truly great Greek of all time. He will not remain in the collective memory only for his inexhaustible passion and his vision for the protection of the cultural heritage of our country and Europe, for the protection of nature and the environment, but also for the deep philosophical attitude to life that he had throughout his life“. He also proudly announced: “We are ready and willing for the Costa Carras Award to be granted every year during the Delphi Economic Forum”.

Costa Carras European Citizens Award Ceremony at Delphi Economic Forum 2023

In his video message, Anastasios P. Leventis, President of the A.G. Leventis Foundation said: “It is a special pleasure for us to support this prestigious Award in memory of such an important person for the preservation of cultural and natural heritage”. He also emphasised that the European character of the Award is in absolute agreement with the most important international dimension of Costa Carras’ action.

Maria Nathanail, the European Investment Bank (EIB) Representative, expressed her institution’s strong appreciation for the Costa Carras European Citizens Award initiative. She emphasised that the EIB – whose Institute is the proud partner of the 7 Most Endangered programme run by Europa Nostra – considers cultural heritage to be an integral part of sustainable economic and developmental practices and pledged to support similar initiatives that promote and preserve Europe’s cultural and natural heritage.

Costa Carras European Citizens Award Ceremony at Delphi Economic Forum 2023

Presenting the Award to the representatives of the winning organisation A.R.A., Lydia Carras, President of ELLET, read the citation of the Jury and added: “Costa would be very happy that A.R.A. from Romania won the unanimous vote of the European Jury for their tireless efforts for Roșia Montană. As he often did himself, they fought against all odds; they persevered and they did not give up. This Award is handed in Delphi, a place he loved, as this landscape – loaded with history and culture – gave him strength. He would also be very happy with an Award for European citizens for endangered heritage and nature. He deeply believed in the role of citizens for democracy as well as for heritage and environment.”

Costa Carras European Citizens Award Ceremony at Delphi Economic Forum 2023

Receiving the Costa Carras European Citizens Award for the Safeguard of Endangered Heritage 2023, Claudia Apostol, representative of the A.R.A. gave a moving and powerful speech, during which she briefly presented the 16 years of action of this organisation dedicated to the preservation of the cultural heritage of the historic mining landscape of Roșia Montană. “For all this, and for the Award we are so deeply honoured to receive today, we thank Europa Nostra for the continuous support, Elliniki Etairia, and all our partners and collaborators but most of all, our very active local community partners. We can’t wait to go back to Roșia Montană next weekend to share the joy of this Award with all and each of them,” she concluded.

A congratulatory message from Adriana Ciamba, Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of Romania, was read at the end of the ceremony. She paid a special tribute to  A.R.A NGO for their tireless efforts and commitment to the preservation of Roșia Montană, which she characterised as “little Romania” due to its multicultural character and millenary history.

The winning organisation A.R.A. will receive a monetary prize of 10.000 Euro which they have pledged to use for the restoration of the Chapel of the Roman-Catholic cemetery in Roșia Montană.

ARA - Architecture. Restoration. Archeology

The heritage importance of Roşia Montană

Situated in the western area of the Carpathian Mountains, the landscape of Roşia Montană has been gradually transformed by gold and silver mining, from prehistoric surface works to deep underground galleries, continued in medieval and modern times, up to the 1970’s. For centuries, the settlers coming from various parts of Europe created communities of an interesting cultural diversity, to mention only the 5 denominations (Catholic, Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Unitarian and Calvinist), whose churches and houses are still witnesses of their way of life.

Panorama of the village of Rosia Montana
Panorama of the village of Rosia Montana. Credits: Shutterstock / Paterau Florin

All the surface features – paths, roads, reservoirs, water channels, stamping areas and Roşia Montană in itself – demonstrate a positive interaction between man and the environment, which has resulted in one of the most representative mining landscapes in Europe. The site as a whole and 50 of its components are listed as historic monuments and two geological formations as natural monuments. In 2021, the historic mining landscape of Roșia Montană was simultaneously inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and on the World Heritage List in Danger.

A major threat to the site and the vast surrounding area was the large-scale open-cast mining project.  The destruction was averted thanks to the mass mobilization of citizens together with other national, European and international organisations and various local NGOs who advocated an alternative, sustainable, long-term development project based on the special characteristics of the area – the historic mining landscape with its outstanding cultural and natural heritage.

“ARA – Architecture. Restoration. Archaeology

The organisation “ARA – Architecture. Restoration. Archaeology” was established in 2006, bringing together architects, restorers, archaeologists, art historians and engineers involved in the research of cultural heritage, who decided to extend their activity for the better knowledge, understanding and protection of cultural heritage.

ARA’s activity in Roșia Montană began in 2007, at a moment when a potential new mining project was looming large, the community was in the process of relocation, and the cultural heritage was under severe threat. The first actions were emergency rescue campaigns for two valuable and endangered community buildings, the Unitarian and Calvinist parish houses, developed with involvement of students from architecture schools and local people. This was the starting point for a continuous presence on the ground, with activities that merge research and documentation, emergency works, teaching and passing of skills and knowledge, conservation and restoration planning and works, communication and presentation of cultural heritage, and community building. Such actions have continued since, partly taking the form of Summer Schools for architecture students, Volunteer Camps and, from 2012, within the framework of the Adopt a House at Roșia Montană programme.

ARA - Architecture. Restoration. Archeology

The Adopt a House at Roșia Montană programme, a cultural heritage and community rescue and protection programme, is making the connection between local owners of historic buildings, cultural heritage professionals, and donors or volunteers. All vernacular miners’ houses, churches and public buildings of Roșia Montană and the neighbouring villages are the focus of this programme, which is aimed to protect and promote the site’s valuable and spectacular historic environment, with a focus on built heritage, and ensure it is well taken care of and transmitted to future generations.

The programme entails collecting information, holding public presentations and consultations, coordinating surveys and projects, offering professional advice, ensuring planning and permitting for works, providing training, and promoting awareness of the value of preserving cultural heritage to society. The long-term goal of the programme is to effect change through the power of professional-coordinated, community-based and volunteer-supported historic preservation, restoring buildings and renewing the community of Roșia Montană and its surroundings.

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