Europa Nostra addresses European ministers at Paris conference on endangered heritage

On 3 May 2019, Europa Nostra addressed EU Ministers at an informal meeting in the aftermath of the devastating fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. The meeting was convened on the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron and the invitation of French Minister of Culture, Franck Riester and French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Amélie de Montchalin. 28 European Ministers and Secretaries of State responsible for Culture and European Affairs discussed how to safeguard endangered cultural heritage in Europe by means of creating an experts’ network, involving young people and drawing on existing financing models. The conference, co-chaired by the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU, culminated with the unanimous adoption of a Joint Declaration on European cultural heritage, which provides an important political impetus for ensuring the legacy of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018.

Europa Nostra’s Secretary General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović was invited to address the meeting of the Ministers of European Affairs as the voice of heritage civil society in Europe. She was accompanied by Board member Laurent Lévi-Strauss and Council member Bertrand de Feydeau. This session, held at the Quai d’Orsay (French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs), was co-presided and opened by French Secretary of State Amélie de Montchalin and her Romanian counterpart, the Minister for Foreign Affairs George Ciamba. After the address by Ambroise Fayolle, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank, who had underlined the expertise and experience of the EIB in the field of cultural heritage in his address, Europa Nostra’s Secretary General presented the 7 Most Endangered programme as a source of inspiration for future joint European action. This programme – run jointly by Europa Nostra and the European Investment Bank Institute – currently lists 29 sites across Europe. She also proposed three concrete initiatives that EU governments could take to step up their cooperation and save endangered heritage in Europe: firstly, she invited the EU leaders to explore the possibility to establish a European network of heritage lottery inspired by the successful French initiative of the “Loto du patrimoine” (“Mission Stéphane Bern”). Secondly, she launched a challenge to European leaders to consider creating a European Solidarity Fund for European Heritage in Danger worth EUR 10 billion for a period of seven years. And thirdly, she proposed to create and promote a true European space for philanthropy encouraged by the overwhelming number of donations that were received for rebuilding the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral.

In the parallel working session of Culture Ministers, the European Commissioner for Culture Tibor Navracsiscs gave a keynote speech calling the Notre-Dame fire “a wake-up call to strengthen our cooperation to safeguard Europe’s cultural heritage”. He stressed the need to build on existing initiatives and tools at European level to preserve cultural heritage and to ensure disaster-preparedness. Commissioner Navracsics particularly emphasised building on the legacy of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 including the European Framework for Action on Cultural Heritage. Moreover, he outlined some concrete actions that could be taken at EU level to support the restoration of Notre-Dame Cathedral, such as mobilising volunteers to assist with the restoration of the cathedral via the European Solidarity Corps programme. Fabrice Duffaud, international delegate for the Rempart association, gave the second keynote speech.

After the two parallel working sessions of Ministers of European Affairs on the one side and Ministers of Culture on the other, all ministers came together at the Louvre museum for a plenary session at which representatives of the Council of Europe (Gabriella Battaini- Dragoni, Deputy Secretary General) and UNESCO (Ernesto Renato Ottone Ramirez Assistant Director General for Culture) were also invited to contribute. European Commissioner Tibor Navracsics also spoke to the plenary of ministers and other invited participants, highlighting the necessity to increase European cooperation for safeguarding heritage and calling on all participants to cherish our shared cultural heritage so as to use its cohesive power to its full potential.

At the meeting, the participating ministers adopted a Declaration (as a non-binding political document) to express “their solidarity with France following the fire at Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral” and to state their commitment to “preserve our shared European heritage and better protect endangered heritage”. To do so, they propose to “make quick progress towards the formation of a European network of heritage expertise available in the EU”, to provide more opportunities to young people in Europe “to get involved in heritage conservation and restoration efforts” and to mobilise “existing financial resources for issues related to the safeguarding of endangered heritage”. The Declaration makes important reference to the role of civil society both in contributing to the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 as well as in the future European network of experts which should also work in close liaison with “professional federations and civil society organisations” from the field.

In the margins of the meeting, Europa Nostra also discussed with the French Vice-President of the European Investment Bank, Ambroise Fayolle, on how to further strengthen their collaboration for the 7 Most Endangered Programme, which is run in partnership with the Bank’s Institute. At the meeting, the Ministers of European Affairs also each received a copy of the “Europe Special” of Europa Nostra’s annual magazine Heritage in Action which focuses on the outcomes and the legacy of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018.

Further information

Watch the video interview with Europa Nostra’s Secretary General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović by France Info ahead of the ministerial meeting:

Read about donations for Notre-Dame on the website of Europa Nostra’s Member organisation Fondation du Patrimoine

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