EP Plenary adopts ambitious report on the legacy of the European Year of Cultural Heritage

At its first Plenary session of the year on 18-21 January 2021, the European Parliament adopted with an overwhelming majority the own-initiative report by MEP Dace Melbārde (ECR, Latvia) on “Achieving an effective policy legacy for the European Year of Cultural Heritage”. As one of the main civil society actors during EYCH 2018, Europa Nostra was delighted to contribute and provide extensive input to the preparation of this important report that calls for a truly strategic approach to cultural heritage by the European Union. This roadmap document particularly highlights the diversity of our cultural heritage as a driving power for growth and employment, its educational benefits, providing new opportunities and strengthening intercultural relations, as well as the growing importance of digital cultural heritage.

EP plenary session.- Achieving an effective policy legacy for the European Year of Cultural Heritage

Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, Secretary General of Europa Nostra, stated: “As Europe is embarking upon an arduous path of recovery, we applaud the adoption by the European Parliament of this important document. The EP report emphasizes the multiple value of our shared cultural heritage and stresses the need for an integrated EU strategy towards cultural heritage, with stronger synergies between various stakeholders, policies, projects and funding programmes, to fully unlock its social, economic and environmental benefits. Europa Nostra stands ready to work hand in hand with the European Institutions and Member States to ensure the most effective implementation of these recommendations”.

The European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018 was an unprecedented celebration of our shared cultural heritage and values, as well as a wide mobilisation of heritage actors across Europe and beyond. Organised as a bottom-up initiative, it engaged 12.8 million citizens through more than 13,000 events. Throughout the year, Europa Nostra, together with its wide network of members and key partners, organised a wide range of events and activities. At the end of the European Year, the European Commission issued its European Framework for Action on Cultural Heritage to scale-up its success and ensure a lasting impact.

The EP report stresses that, at present and in the future, much more can be done to achieve an effective policy legacy for the EYCH. After an initial vote in favour of the report by the EP Culture and Education Committee on 27 October 2020, the document was presented and debated on 18 January during the Plenary Sitting. MEPs from each political group called on the European Commission and the Member States to step up their actions related to recognising the value of cultural heritage, enhancing related education and skills, promoting digital cultural heritage, unlocking its economic potential and sustainability, as well as developing a strategic approach to cultural heritage.

Europa Nostra closely followed the debate and particularly welcomed the proposal made by the Rapporteur, MEP Dace Melbārde, to create a permanent platform for cooperation among cultural heritage stakeholders; the proposal made by MEPs Sabine Verheyen (EPP, Germany), Chair of the EP CULT Committee, and MEP Michaela Šojdrová (EPP, Czech Republic) to declare another European Year of Cultural Heritage focusing on digital and natural heritage, as well as the plea made by MEP Laurence Farreng (Renew, France) to launch a real EU strategy for cultural heritage. Other MEPs such as Domènec Ruiz Devesa (S&D, Spain), Salima Yenbou (The Greens, France), Alexis Georgoulis (GUE/NGL, Greece), Victor Negrescu (S&D, Romania), Irena Joveva (Renew, Slovenia), Lóránt Vincze (EPP, Romania), Radka Maxová (Renew, Czech Republic), and François-Xavier Bellamy (EPP, France), highlighted the needs to reinforce heritage related education and skills, especially digital, to fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural goods, to develop more sustainable forms of cultural tourism, and to protect minority languages and cultures – all of which can be achieved through better policy integration and awareness-raising, especially with the view to the Conference on the Future of Europe.

To conclude the debate, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel stated: “We need to build bridges between science, innovation, the cultural and creative industries and the cultural heritage sector to emerge from this crisis. These are unique resources that characterize Europe and allow us to transform and to find solutions together. Only if we work together we can be stronger and more united.

Commissioner Gabriel also reiterated her support to earmark 2% of the Resilience and Recovery Facility for culture and the readiness of the European Commission to engage in a conversation with all actors across all sectors to ensure a more central place for cultural heritage in EU policies. As an illustration of such an integrated approach, she referred to the just-launched New European Bauhaus initiative, a creative and interdisciplinary movement bringing citizens, experts, businesses, and Institutions together to find innovation solutions connecting the European Green Deal to the quality of our living spaces.

Summary of recommendations from the EP Report:

Recognising the value of cultural heritage:

  • Protecting, developing, and promoting language diversity in the digital age;
  • Fully including the cultural heritage of the minorities present in Europe in any reflection on the European heritage;
  • Promoting and supporting European and pan-European cultural events and traditional cultural festivals.

Education and skills:

  • More comprehensively integrating cultural heritage in the strategy for a European Education Area, in order to help students develop a strong sense of European citizenship;
  • Providing the House of European History with adequate funding to enable it to become a knowledge and collaboration hub for young researchers, teachers and students from all over the EU;
  • Developing quality e-learning initiatives to make the discovery of cultural heritage more accessible and to strengthen heritage-related skills across Europe;
  • Ensuring that future initiatives on the preservation of cultural heritage include the preservation of the necessary practices and knowledge.

Digital cultural heritage:

  • Recognising the growing interest in digital cultural heritage, particularly during pandemics and associated lockdowns, as a source of solace and the only way for people, including those from disadvantaged and disabled backgrounds, to access culture;
  • Making greater efforts to develop the Europeana platform further, including by allocating adequate funding for it, and by promoting it more to the general public and teachers;
  • Develop a comprehensive EU framework with adequate funding for the protection and promotion of digitised and born-digital cultural heritage;

Economic potential and sustainability:

  • Putting strong mechanisms in place for an inclusive promotion of cultural tourism toward local communities and economies and to lifestyles and traditions, striking a balance between economic, social, cultural and environmental requirements;
  • Encouraging travel to less well-known and popular destinations and rural areas, as well as low-season travel, so as to promote sustainability and accessibility in tourism;
  • Proposing concrete actions for preserving and protecting cultural heritage in light of natural and human-made hazards.

Towards a strategic approach to cultural heritage:

  • Giving equal treatment to tangible, intangible, natural and digital heritage and approaching these dimensions as being interconnected and inseparable;
  • Establish and properly supporting a permanent platform, with organised civil society at its core, for cooperation and coordination on cultural heritage policies at all levels, notably at the EU level,
    Setting-up of a single EU portal to be called ‘Know Europe’, bringing together information from all the EU programmes funding cultural heritage;
  • Strategic cooperation between the European Union and other international organisations, in particular UNESCO and the Council of Europe;
  • Carrying out a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the pandemic on the relevant sectors and the cultural heritage sector in particular and offering adequate and targeted financial support;
    Including the cultural and heritage dimension of European integration in the strategic topics for discussion in the forthcoming Conference on the Future of Europe.

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