Local Award Ceremony for the Kempens Landscape Association honoured by Commissioner Vassiliou

The Local Award Ceremony for the Kempens Landscape Association, a Grand Prix winner of an EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2014 in the Dedicated Service category, was held on 19 September in the chapel of the former Convent of the Franciscan Order, one of the domains of the Association, in Wuustwezel in Belgium. The event was honoured by the presence of Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. Europa Nostra was represented by its Board Member Piet Jaspaert. Dozens of heritage and cultural professionals, volunteers and supporters, and representatives from local, regional and national authorities assembled to pay tribute to the remarkable work of the Association.

Kempens Landscape Association honoured by Commissioner Vassiliou
Both Androulla Vassiliou and Piet Jaspaert emphasized the importance and value of our European heritage and the good example that the Kempens Landscape Association sets in order to preserve this heritage.

The Board Member of Europa Nostra stressed the good cooperation between various stakeholders as key to the success of the Association: “It struck the Jury of the Awards how this complete project is being carried out by a young dynamic team, with the support from the involved public bodies at the local and provincial levels”.

Commissioner Vassiliou presented the award and congratulated the whole team on the significant prize: “This is the most prestigious prize in the cultural heritage sector in Europe, rewarding the best examples of heritage conservation, research, dedicated service, and education, training and awareness-raising”.

“I am sure that partners from other European countries would very much appreciate to learn from your experience, which would be very valuable to them. Your model of governance is particularly inspiring and goes exactly in the sense of a community-based approach that we advocate in the European Commission,” stated Androulla Vassiliou.

“I wish you every success with your application to the World Heritage List and encourage you to continue preserving this magnificent natural and cultural heritage, and promote access to it,” she added.

Throughout the evening the Flemish TV Presenter Lieven Van Gils interviewed several people who contributed to the vision of the Kempens Landscape Association. The Honorary Chairmen Ludo Helsen and Jos Geusens, who established the outlines of the organisation during the first 10 years, were the first to be questioned.

The current Chairmen Peter Bellens and Inga Verhaert were then called to the stage. Lieven asked them about the role that Association plays within the Province of Antwerp as a powerful instrument for the multidisciplinary care for open space and landscape.

What will the future of Kempens Landscape Association hold? Chairman Peter Bellens explained: “In Vienna we received the following message from Europa Nostra: ‘Give a future to heritage’ which we will further implement during the next years. For already more than two decades, the Association has been occupied with the care and revalorization of cultural heritage and we will continue this mission with the same vigor using the knowledge, vision and experience we gained.”

Inga Verhaert is also positive about the future: “My greatest hope is that the organizational structure of the Kempens Landscape Association is copied by the other provinces so it grows into an association similar to the Dutch Landscape Associations. The EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award is a good confirmation that our Association puts the European Landscape Convention into practice, as the Jury also stated.”

Finally, Mark Andries, Chief of Cabinet of the Minister-President of the Flemish Government Geert Bourgeois responsible for immovable heritage, took the floor. “The Jury of the Awards stated that ‘it could hardly conceive a more powerful example of the implementation of the European Landscape Convention’. This is an incredible recognition at European level. I look forward to strengthening further the good cooperation between the Flemish Government and Kempens Landscape Association,” he stated.

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