MEPs call for EU response to extreme weather threats to historic cities such as Venice

During its Plenary session on 26 November in Strasbourg, the European Parliament discussed the need for a joint EU response to extreme meteorological events and their impacts on urban areas and their cultural heritage. Over 30 Members of the European Parliament took the floor to address this important topic, many of them recalling the alarming situation related to Venice and its Lagoon and calling for urgent and resolute solidarity and action by EU Institutions.

EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides opened the session on behalf of the European Commission. He recalled that the Commission is providing guidance to the Italian authorities on a possible application of the EU Solidarity Fund to support Venice. ‘What has happened in Venice is unfortunately an example of what it is to come as climate change develops. We must be proactive and this is why the Commission has been putting an increased focus on prevention, climate adaptation and risk management policies’ he added.

Member of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani (Group of the European People’s Party) called on the European Commission to establish a specific prevention fund to counter the potential damage to Europe’s cultural heritage due to bad weather conditions under the next Multiannual Financial Framework.

Members of the European Parliament Pär Holmgren (Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance) and Sabrina Pignedoli (Non-attached), reminded that it is most likely that what has happened in Venice will happen again and more often in the future. To face these threats, Europe will have to work intensively on climate protection and should put forward a very ambitious Green New Deal.

Laurence Farreng (member of the RENEW Europe Group), explicitly recalled that in 2016 the Venice Lagoon, was listed by Europa Nostra and the European Investment Bank Institute as THE Most Endangered Heritage site in Europe. Due to the disproportionate maritime traffic in the Lagoon for the benefit of mass tourism, the survival of Venice and its surrounding Lagoon are at risk. “However, if cultural heritage disappears, so will the tourists”, she added stressing the short-sightedness of such an approach. She therefore made a strong plea for EU action in support to Venice, stressing that such action would unite all Europeans. She also recalled the global responsibility for this unique World Heritage site. Read full statement here.

Prior to the European Parliament Plenary meeting, Europa Nostra had discussed the Venice situation with Laurence Farreng and shared with her a powerful policy document on the threats to Venice and its Lagoon which was released following an extraordinary meeting of the Board of the Fondo Ambiente Italiano (a key Italian Member organisation of Europa Nostra) on 20 November in Venice.

Many other members of the European Parliament also conveyed messages of solidarity with Venice and its people in the face of the alarming situation and important losses caused by the extremely high water that devastated Venice and its exceptional cultural heritage earlier this month. The common denominator of the debate was the urgent call to action towards EU Institutions to save Venice and prevent further harm to other heritage assets in Europe due to climate change.

Europa Nostra highly commends the European Parliament for addressing this urgent and critical issue during its plenary meeting. On 28 and 29 November, the Europa Nostra 7 Most Endangered Advisory Board met in The Hague to discuss, among others, the deplorable situation of the Venice Lagoon. In consultation with the 7 Most Endangered Advisory Board, the Europa Nostra Secretariat will prepare a Statement urging EU leaders to take immediate action to save this iconic site with immeasurable value for Venetians, Italians, Europeans and for humanity as a whole.

More information

Watch the video of the session EU response to extreme meteorological events and their impacts; how to protect European urban areas and their cultural heritage here.

Agenda of the European Parliament plenary session here

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