Europa Nostra applauds Council Conclusions on the key role of cultural heritage for peace, democracy and sustainable development

Europa Nostra welcomes the Conclusions on EU Approach to Cultural Heritage in conflicts and crises, adopted by the Council of the European Union on 21 June 2021. This important policy document recognises the role of cultural heritage as an important vehicle for peace, democracy and sustainable development by fostering tolerance, mutual understanding, reconciliation as well as intercultural and interfaith dialogue. The Conclusions are accompanied by a Concept note entitled “Cultural heritage in conflict and crisis. A component for peace and security in European Union’s external action”, prepared by the European External Action Service (EEAS) and addressed to the EU Delegations around the world. Europa Nostra has proudly and extensively contributed to the preparation of this Concept note through a civil society consultation process with the EEAS.

The Council Conclusions call for the protection and safeguard of cultural heritage during periods of conflict and emphasise the importance of awareness and protection of cultural heritage as part of a conflict sensitive approach and as a basis for sustainable recovery and lasting peace. The document stresses that the protection and safeguarding of cultural heritage can contribute to prevent violent extremism, fight against disinformation, and generate positive and inclusive dialogue, as well as contribute to the overall resilience of societies.

The EU Council also highlights the importance of strengthening partnerships with relevant international, intergovernmental and regional organisations as well as civil society. It calls for the protection and safeguard of cultural heritage to be highlighted in relevant strategic and programming documents and mainstreamed into the work of the Council within the Common Foreign and Security Policy. The EU will now integrate the protection of cultural heritage into all the relevant dimensions of the EU toolbox for conflicts and crises.

Hermann Parzinger, Executive President of Europa Nostra, applauded the adoption of this document. “These Conclusions confirm that the EU is strongly committed to mainstreaming cultural heritage in all EU’s policies, including in its external action. Europa Nostra stands ready to mobilise its large network of members and partners to ensure the meaningful and effective implementation of this important document. We shall continue mobilising to protect and safeguard endangered heritage in Europe and beyond. We shall also mobilise our experience-led knowledge on this area, in particular through the collection and promotion of best practices from both our European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards and the EU-funded ILUCIDARE project on heritage-led international relations,” he recalled.

Prior to the adoption of the Council Conclusions, Europa Nostra extensively exchanged with the European External Action Service for the preparation of the accompanying Concept note “Cultural heritage in conflict and crisis. A component for peace and security in European Union’s external action”. Through both oral and written exchanges, Europa Nostra conveyed to EEAS representatives what we believe should be the core principles underpinning the EU strategic approach to cultural heritage in conflict and crisis, notably the firm conviction that Europe is a value-driven project; the need for a human-centred approach in conflict and post-conflict interventions, as well as the key role of civil society instead of a purely governmental approach.

Europa Nostra is strongly committed to unleashing the potential of cultural heritage for peace-building, reconciliation and international cooperation. As part of our advocacy agenda, Europa Nostra will convey individual letters to Josep Borrell Fontelles, European Commission’s Vice-President coordinating the external action of the European Union, Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, as well as all EU Ministers in charge of Culture, expressing our readiness to become a civil society partner for the successful implementation of the recent Council Conclusions. Europa Nostra will also continue to exchange with the EEAS with the view of enhancing our dialogue and partnership with them concerning the positive role that cultural heritage ought to play in conflicts and crises across Europe and the globe.

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