Culture is back: The new President of the European Commission announces extended title of EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel

During her impressive speech at the European Parliament Plenary Session in Strasbourg on 27 November, before the election of the new European Commission, President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the word ‘culture’ will after all figure in the portfolio title of EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel from Bulgaria. We applaud the fact that her portfolio, initially entitled ‘Commissioner for Innovation and Youth‘, has been renamed as follows: ‘EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth‘.

During her speech, Ursula von der Leyen recalled that “culture and education are what link our history with our future. This is what makes us unique. Our soul, our culture, our diversity, our heritage“. This announcement was met with a strong applause by members of the European Parliament. Europa Nostra commends this decision, as we believe that culture should not only be a high priority in the EU agenda, but also a visible and explicit one.

The announcement of the new portfolio title comes after an important mobilisation of culture and heritage stakeholders, including Europa Nostra, who deeply regretted the omission of the crucial notion of ‘culture’ in Commissioner Gabriel’s important portfolio. Europa Nostra, among others, joined the list of signatories of the Open letter addressed to the President-elect and a public petition entitled ‘Bring back culture, Ms. President!’, both initiated by Culture Action Europe.

Presidents of EU Institutions, such as David Maria Sassoli, President of the European Parliament and Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee also advocated the need for culture to be visible in the portfolio title of Commissioner Gabriel. At the recent meeting of the Council of the European Union and Representatives of the Member States in charge of Culture held on 21 November in Brussels, 11 Ministers called for culture to be included in the title of Commissioner Gabriel.

The same plea was conveyed in the Paris Manifesto RELANÇONS L’EUROPE PAR LA CULTURE ET LE PATRIMOINE CULTUREL!, released by Europa Nostra with key heritage stakeholders as the key outcome of the European Cultural Heritage Summit 2019 held from 27-30 October in Paris. In mid-November, Europa Nostra addressed a letter to the President-elect of the European Commission, signed by its Executive President Hermann Parzinger and Secretary General Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, urging her to consider changing Gabriel’s portfolio title and accompanied by the vibrant text of the Paris Manifesto. While applauding the prominence duly given to culture and cultural heritage in the Mission Letter addressed to Gabriel by the President-elect last September, Europa Nostra pled to bring “culture” back in her portfolio title as to dissipate any misunderstanding or doubts about the strong commitment to culture and heritage by the new Commission.

In a congratulatory letter addressed to Commissioner Gabriel immediately after the approval of the incoming College of Commissioners by the European Parliament, Europa Nostra Executive President Hermann Parzinger and Secretary General Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic stated “We wish to warmly congratulate you for your appointment as EU Commissioner in charge of Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth. Your portfolio is undoubtedly one of the most important of the new Commission, as it directly affects the interests of Europe’s citizens and touches upon something that is particularly dear to their hearts and minds: our shared culture and cultural heritage”.

More information

Full speech by Ursula von der Leyen during the European Parliament Plenary Session in Strasbourg on 27 November is available here.

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