Europa Nostra welcomes Florence Declaration of G7 Ministers of Culture

In a landmark declaration adopted on 30 March 2017 in Florence, the G7 Ministers of Culture recognise the importance of safeguarding cultural heritage and call on states to increase their efforts in support of heritage. Upon initiative from the Italian G7 Presidency, the Ministerial meeting was entirely dedicated to culture and cultural heritage and resulted in a “Joint Declaration of the Ministers of Culture of G7”. Europa Nostra applauds this historic initiative which confirms that a momentum for cultural heritage continues to grow both at European and at international level.

“Europa Nostra, together with many civil society organisations, has been urging European leaders to recognise the important role of cultural heritage and culture for the European project.  Today, we feel that our voice has been heard! Thanks to the leadership of Italy and its Minister for Culture and Tourism, Dario Franceschini, culture has for the first time been put on the agenda ahead of a G7 Summit” stressed Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra who attended the side events of the G7 culture meeting in Florence. Dr Hermann Parzinger, President of Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation), and Board member of Europa Nostra, attended the meeting in Florence as a member of the German delegation (link to SPK news in German).

“Together with the Rome Declaration adopted on 25 March by EU leaders, the Florence Declaration now provides a favourable framework for enhanced cooperation between all state and institutional parties concerned. Europa Nostra calls on G7 Heads of State and of Government to take this milestone declaration into account when adopting their Final Communiqué at the G7 Summit in May 2017” added our Secretary General.

The Florence Declaration stresses the importance of “a common and coordinated action to strengthen the safeguarding of cultural heritage” and highlights the fundamentally positive role of heritage for societies: cultural heritage helps “fostering tolerance and mutual understanding” through dialogue and cultural exchanges; cultural heritage is “an important tool for the growth and sustainable development of our societies, also in terms of economic prosperity” and, last but not least, it is “a driver and a subject of the most advanced technologies”. Furthermore, the Florence Declaration makes explicit reference to the upcoming European Year by welcoming “the designation of 2018 as the European Year of Cultural Heritage, with the opportunities it will offer for the protection and valorization of the world’s cultural heritage, as a positive example of an initiative supporting the principles expressed by this Declaration”.

The contribution of cultural heritage to sustainable development, as mentioned in the declaration, was also one of the key outcomes of the “Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe” report whose dissemination and translation is part of Europa Nostra’s lobbying efforts. G7 culture ministers also call on states to increase their efforts for safeguarding and preserving heritage and making it a priority. In this sense, the signatories call on the Chairs of the G7 to organise further ministerial meetings on culture in future. The declaration was signed by Canada, France, United States of America, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Italy (see image of the signed declaration in tweet by Italian Culture Ministry). European Commissioner for Culture, Tibor Navracsics, and UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova, took active part in discussions in Florence: “Defending cultural heritage is more than a cultural issue — it is a security imperative, inseparable from that of defending human lives” said UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova and thanked Italy for its efforts in raising awareness at international level of heritage destruction, “The deliberate destruction of heritage is a war crime – it has become a tactic of war, to undermine societies, to paralyze communities, to spread hatred, to fuel revenge, in a global strategy of cultural cleansing. This is inacceptable and it calls for stronger and appropriate responses.”

Europa Nostra was also represented by Secretary General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović at the high level back-to-back event “European Union of Culture: Paving the way for new cultural diplomacy approaches and improved economic growth of creative and cultural sectors” on 30 March 2017 which was organised by the European Commission Representation in Italy under the patronage of Città Metropolitana di Firenze and Comune di Firenze and with the support of icom institute for competitiveness. In his welcome speech, Dario Nardella, Mayor of Florence, emphasised that culture is the key resource for the revival of the entire European project, thus reiterating Europa Nostra’s Rome Statement. Europa Nostra welcomed his proposal to invite the former European Capitals of Culture to Florence to build together a “New Europe based on culture”. European Commissioner for Culture, Tibor Navracsics, also highlighted the fundamental role culture and heritage play as cohesive forces in Europe: “Unity in diversity of Europe’s heritage matters” in the concluding remarks. He also recalled that protecting cultural heritage and promoting intercultural dialogue were central to the new strategy on EU cultural relations. Italian Minister of Culture, Dario Francheschini, emphasised the need to strengthen international coordination in the field of culture, expressing his hope that the next G7 Presidency – Canada in 2018 – would organise another G7 Culture Summit so as to make it a permanent feature (link to press release in Italian).

Both the Rome Declaration adopted by EU leaders on 25 March 2017 and the G7 Florence Declaration with their key references to cultural heritage are an encouragement for Europa Nostra -and other European networks which are members of the European Heritage Alliance 3.3 – to pursue and further strengthen our lobbying efforts for cultural heritage in Europe.

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