Creative Europe Networks praise the role of culture and heritage for a robust democracy at 2023 Summit

On 27 September, Europa Nostra hosted the Creative Europe Networks Focus meeting in the magnificent premises of the Venice Gardens Foundation, winner of a Grand Prix of the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards 2023 for the restoration of the Napoleonic-era Royal Gardens of Venice. Around 60 participants, including representatives of 11 Creative Europe Networks, joined the meeting organised in the frame of the European Cultural Heritage Summit 2023 in Venice.

Creative Europe Networks – Focus Meeting #2

The event focused on “Heritage for the Future: European values, citizenship and sense of belonging through cultural heritage”. It is the second of a series of “Focus Meetings” put in place by the European Commission and the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) to explore key policy issues linked to the Creative Europe Programme and other challenges that Europe faces today. These meetings are primarily open to all interested Creative Europe Networks, but can also involve those interested in Creative Europe-funded platforms or projects as well as other cultural stakeholders.

Alejandro Ramilo, Project Advisor at EACEA, and Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra, opened the meeting which was moderated by Jimmy Jamar, Head of the Brussels Office of Europa Nostra.

The discussion focused on two primary aspects, which are closely interlinked. Firstly on the role culture and heritage play in strengthening European values and citizenship and furthering a sense of belonging to a wider community; and secondly, on how education can help strengthen civic engagement in democracy.

Creative Europe Networks – Focus Meeting #2

The role of culture in nurturing democracy has long been emphasised. A recent review of international research by the European Commission provides strong evidence that confirms the enormous social and civic value of culture. Dr. Angelos Agalianos, Senior Policy Officer in the Cultural Policy Unit of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sports and Culture, presented the report “Culture and Democracy – the evidence”, published by the European Commission in June 2023. This unique report reviews international evidence on this topic, distils key policy lessons and highlights examples of successful actions from several EU Member States and beyond.  It illustrates the many ways in which citizens’ participation in cultural activities, and in the social settings that support them, helps individuals and communities engage in civic and democratic life. In the run-up to the European elections in 2024, a compelling amount of international research shows that citizens participating regularly in cultural activities are more likely to vote, to volunteer and to participate in community activities, projects and organisations.

Dr. Angelos Agalianos used Focus Meeting 2 to launch an Appeal for Information. He asked participants to send information about existing civic-oriented school/culture partnerships that are explicitly designed to enhance pupils’ citizenship education and democratic attitudes. The Networks will receive a request (in the format of an online EU-survey) and guidance on how to contribute.

From theory to action

Representatives from award-winning initiatives also took the stage to share inspirational and tangible examples of how cultural participation can improve civic engagement and bring communities together.

Creative Europe Networks – Focus Meeting #2

Simon O’Connor, Director of the Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI), winner of a Grand Prix of the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards 2023, demonstrated the museum’s outstanding ability to build a diverse and devoted audience in a short period of time. Through innovative strategies like immersive experiences and events, MoLi has managed to engage people from all backgrounds, particularly those who may not typically engage with the literary artform.

Creative Europe Networks – Focus Meeting #2

Claudia Apostol, Representative of A.R.A. – Architecture.Restoration.Archaeology, winner of the first Costa Carras European Citizens Award for the Safeguard of Endangered Cultural and Natural Heritage 2023, presented the organisation’s exemplary work mobilising citizens to successfully promote and protect the outstanding heritage of the historic mining landscape of Rosia Montana in Romania. In 2021, the site was simultaneously inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and on the World Heritage List in Danger.

Towards the end of the meeting, Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović read the Caceres Declaration, which was adopted on 26 September during the informal meeting of EU Ministers of Culture, under the frame of the Spanish Presidency. In an unprecedented move, Ministers vowed to see culture placed at the highest policy level: “Culture is what gives meaning to life. Culture broadens what is real through what is dreamt. Culture turns the banal into the essential, the ephemeral into the eternal. Culture makes the small giant, the perishable infinite. Culture is rights, Culture is freedom. Culture is progress and, above all, democracy”. Participants applauded the declaration and called for the greater integration and mainstreaming of culture and heritage across all policies, of special relevance ahead of the 2024 European Parliament elections. 

In her closing remarks, Cristina Loglio, Vice-President of Europa Nostra, recalled the fundamental mission of the Creative Europe Networks to bring the cultural sector closer together, aligning efforts with the EU for a more inclusive, sustainable and just future.

More information

Networks meeting: programme booklet | photo selection | twitter thread | final report

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