Joining forces for heritage in the European Parliament in Brussels

Just a week after the adoption by the European Parliament of a Resolution calling for the implementation of an integrated approach to cultural heritage for Europe (with over 80% of MEPs voting in favour), cultural heritage was at the heart of discussions of the first ever meeting of the European Parliament Intergroup on European tourism development, cultural heritage and the Way of St James and other cultural routes, held on 16 September 2015 in Brussels. This meeting gathered over 100 participants from the European Union Institutions, representatives of EU Member States and Regions, European civil society and the private sector. Co-organised by Europa Nostra and the Co-Chair of the Intergroup, Ana-Claudia Tapardel (S&D, Romania), with the support of the other Co-Chair, Francisco Millan Mon (EPP, Spain), this meeting was dedicated to the presentation of the results of the Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe project. It provided an ideal platform to join forces in support of cultural heritage as a key resource for sustainable development in Europe and also as a vital tool for promoting the much needed inter-cultural dialogue within Europe and also between Europe and the rest of the world.

CHCfE Meeting at the European Parliament

Silvia Costa, Chair of the EP Committee on Culture and Education, opened the meeting by praising the importance of the Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe report. She recalled the hearing on Intercultural dialogue and education for mutual understanding organised by her Committee the previous day (15/09) with the participation of Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, as a key-note speaker. “We must condemn any act of deliberate destruction of cultural heritage and we must use the power of cultural heritage to foster Europe’s cultural diplomacy and to promote intercultural dialogue in Europe and beyond,” said Silvia Costa.

Speaking on behalf of Europa Nostra, the European Heritage Alliance 3.3 and members of the Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe consortium, Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, Europa Nostra’s Secretary General, welcomed the establishment of the EP Intergroup covering cultural heritage as a transversal policy issue and expressed the hope that from now on the dialogue between Europe’s various stakeholders, including civil society and MEPs will become much more regular and more effective. She also referred to the tragic exodus of people coming to Europe in search of safety and hope for a better life. She argued that “host countries and communities should be prepared to learn about and respect the immaterial heritage these hundreds of thousands of people are bringing with them while at the same time finding the proper ways to help the refugees to learn about and respect the culture and heritage of their new living environment”.

The two-hour discussion was rich in examples of how cultural heritage counts for Europe. Speaking on behalf of the CHCFE Consortium, Kate Pugh of the Heritage Alliance presented the results and implications of the ‘Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe’ Report which was produced in June 2015 by a European consortium composed of six partners, using a series of concrete examples which are in the report. She closed her intervention by underlining that Europe should be deploying much more its soft power, including the power of its cultural heritage. Guy Clausse, Dean of the European Investment Bank Institute (EIBI), presented ‘The 7 Most Endangered’ programme run by Europa Nostra in partnership with EIBI and stressed the need for stronger pooling of resources between local, regional, national and European authorities to ensure the necessary funding for saving Europe’s (endangered) heritage. Uwe Koch of the German National Heritage Committee presented the concept note, under preparation by the Reflection Group “EU and Cultural Heritage”, on the proposed European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018, putting forward the central theme of the Year: “sharing heritage”, which “allows for everyone to discover and to join in on how to share heritage”.

The discussion also gave an audible voice to a series of vital actors in the conception and implementation of any credible policy towards cultural heritage, namely: the Council of Europe, the European Commission and historic towns and regions. In his reaction to the first panel, Bruno Favel, Chair of the Steering Committee for Culture, Heritage and Landscape of the Council of Europe, payed tribute to Khaled al-Asaad, the late archaeologist looking after the site of Palmyra for 40 years and who was killed by Islamic State (IS) militants this August, and made a strong plea to perceive and use cultural heritage as a vehicle for intercultural dialogue and respect. Walter Zampieri, Head of Unit in the DG for Education and Culture of the European Commission, presented the active role of the European Commission in this field over the past few years and thanked the European Parliament and the European civil society, especially Europa Nostra and the European Heritage Alliance 3.3, for a constructive partnership. Brian Smith, Secretary General of the European Association of Historic Towns and Regions, called for the need to shift the momentum from the European level to the national, regional and local levels – in particular historic towns and regions. He also welcomed the possibility of having a cultural heritage year in 2018 to provide “real focus for action and change”.

Closing the meeting, the President of the European Socialists and Democrats, Gianni Pittella, congratulated the Consortium for the ‘Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe’ Report and underlined the importance of recognising the immense added value of cultural heritage, stating that “Europe as we know it today is the result of a long history where the values of diversity, tolerance and multiculturalism have always played an important role. Our cultural heritage is the best testimony ever of the very rich history of the European continent”.

Background Information

European Parliament Intergroups are informal groupings of MEPs from different countries and different political parties gathering to discuss transversal policy issues for which they share an interest and which they wish to promote. Such Intergroups also provide a suitable platform for MEPs to engage in a regular dialogue with various stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector.
For more information related to Intergroups, click  here
For the composition of the EP Intergroup on European tourism development, cultural heritage and the Way of St James and other cultural routes click here

The Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe project was carried out between July 2013 and June 2015 with the support of the European Commission and in response to the position paper ‘Towards an EU Strategy for Cultural Heritage — the Case for Research’ presented in 2012 by the European Heritage Alliance 3.3. This project comprised collecting, analysing and consolidating evidence-based research and case studies from different EU Member States on the impact of cultural heritage on the economy, society, culture and environment with three aims: to demonstrate the value and potential of cultural heritage as a strategic resource for a sustainable Europe; to raise public awareness of this resource; and to present strategic recommendations to European decision makers.

The project was coordinated by Europa Nostra through a Steering Group composed of all project partners: ENCATC (The European Network on Cultural Management and Cultural Policy Education), Europa Nostra (The Voice of Cultural Heritage in Europe), Heritage Europe (The European Association of Historic Towns and Regions), The Heritage Alliance from England, UK as well as The International Cultural Centre, Krakow (Poland) and The Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation at the University of Leuven (Belgium) who were responsible for conducting the EU-wide survey and analysis of existing research and case studies on cultural heritage impact assessment.
The outcome of this cooperation is a nearly 300 page report for tapping into heritage’s full potential. It provides compelling evidence of the value of cultural heritage and its impact on Europe’s economy, culture, society and the environment. The full report and the report’s executive summary are available for free download
For more information about the Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe project click here

The initiative to dedicate a European Year to Cultural Heritage has initially been put forward by the German National Heritage Committee, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the European Year of Architectural Heritage which was organised in 1975 under the auspices of the Council of Europe. The initiative was positively received by the co-legislators and a reference was included in the Council Conclusions on Participatory governance of Cultural Heritage, adopted under the Italian Presidency on 25 November 2014, as well as in the European Parliament Resolution ‘Towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage for Europe’, which was adopted by a large majority in plenary on 8 September 2015.
For more information on European Years, click here

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