Europa Nostra discusses European Identity & Cultural Heritage at European Foundation Centre Annual Conference

To celebrate the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 (EYCH), this year’s European Foundation Centre Conference (29-31 May) was held under the theme “Culture matters: Connecting citizens, uniting communities”. On this occasion, Europa Nostra, in cooperation with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Portugal) and the Cariplo Foundation (Italy) organised a session entitled “United in Diversity: Strengthening European Identity through our Shared Cultural Heritage” on 31 May in Brussels. Attended by some 600 European philanthropists, Europa Nostra was honoured to be one of the only NGOs selected to organise a session during the EFC Annual Conference. Speakers from the EU Institutions and the Foundations world exchanged their views and launched an open debate with philanthropy experts in the audience on the best ways to ensure that heritage is duly taken into account in the debate on the Future of Europe.

At a time when the European project is at a crossroads, speakers highlighted the opportunity offered by the EYCH to use Europe’s cultural heritage as a key vehicle for reinforcing European identity and unity based on cultural treasures, values and memories, past and present. In his address,Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins, Administrator of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and National Coordinator for the EYCH in Portugal, advocated culture and education as powerful tools to increase in particular sustainable development, social cohesion and youth participation, thus ensuring the legacy of the Year.

Unable to attend the session due to the European Parliament Plenary Session taking place in Strasbourg, Silvia Costa, MEP and former Chair of the EP Committee on Culture and Education, recorded a special video message in which she calls on European Foundations to sustain the legacy of the Year by “giving more support to transnational cultural projects, to contribute not only to innovation and social inclusion but also to create a stronger sense of belonging to Europe by fostering European citizenship against today’s rising demagogy and populism”.

As this session aimed to builds on the European Commission Communication “Strengthening European Identity through Education and Culture” which contributed to the EU Leaders’ discussion during the Gothenburg Social Summit in November 2017, we were delighted to count Viviane Hoffmann, Deputy Director General, DG Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, European Commission, among the speakers. She briefly presented the EC’s proposal for a New European Agenda for Culture adopted on 22 May 2018 in which cultural heritage is recognised as a transversal theme and resource for its implementation and acknowledged the recent change in narrative and potential for the Debate on the Future of Europe: “culture matters, it connects people.”

In order to stress the benefits of investment in cultural heritage, Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, Secretary General of Europa Nostra, presented videos of a few laureates of the 2018 EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards contrasting with the 7 Most Endangered sites in Europe in 2018. Francisco de Paula Coelho, Dean of the European Investment Bank Institute and funding partner of the 7 Most Endangered programme, highlighted that too many heritage sites are still endangered and are not recognised for their full potential. In order to tackle this issue and ensure funding for heritage, he had put forwards three solutions “1) Visibility ; 2) Holistic approach ; and 3) Public-private partnerships”.

This event took place in the frame of Europa Nostra’s “Foundations4Heritage” initiative in the frame of the EU network project “Sharing Heritage – Sharing Values” EU Creative Europe programme (2017-2021). Following several meetings of “Foundations4Heritage” in Europe, this ambitious initiative seeks to further build and strengthen Europa Nostra’s relations with the world of private foundations, and especially with two important European networks of Foundations: the European Foundation Centre and DAFNE (Donors and Foundations Networks of Europe).

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