Speech – Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović – Inter-Parliamentary Committee Conference European Cultural Heritage in Brussels

19-20 November 2018, Brussels, Belgium

“Cultural Heritage & Identity”

Check against delivery

Honorable members of the
European & national parliaments,
Dear Colleagues & Friends,

It is for me a great honour & responsibility to be the voice of civil society at this important meeting which brings together members of the European and national parliaments to discuss the relevance and impact of our historic European Year of Cultural Heritage.

Why is this year such a historic one? Not just because this is the only thematic year during the Juncker Commission. But because this is the first European year which was initiated bottom up. The idea was launched and promoted by the cultural heritage stakeholders, national and European. Fortunately, the European Parliament embraced this idea and played a key role in convincing President Juncker that this idea was worth supporting.

Mille Grazie Silvia Costa, Vielen Danke Petra Kammerevert, and many thanks to all members of the European Parliament, for your vital political support!

We all now have a shared responsibility to ensure the lasting legacy of the European Year!

Ladies & Gentlemen,

* At the time when we are commemorating the end of the First World War, we must never forget that Europe is first and foremost a peace project!

* At the time when we are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we must remember that Europe has always been a value-driven project! 

* And at the time when we are preparing for the next European elections, it is important to recall that the European project is also a cultural project.

Confronted with so many challenges, and even threats to our core values, we must today “change the tone”, change the narrative about Europe. “We must put our shared cultural heritage where it belongs: at the very centre of Europe’s policies and priorities”, as stated by the Berlin Call to Action which was presented last June at the first European Cultural Heritage Summit organised by Europa Nostra in partnership with DNK, coordinator of the European Year in Germany, with the active participation of so many European and national institutions and stakeholders.

We, Europeans, share a rich heritage – tangible and intangible – , which is the reflection of our shared history, memory and identity. We are all part of a larger family, forged over centuries of exchanges not only among intellectuals, artists and scientists, but also among ordinary people and their communities. Therefore, if we want to advance further the European project, we must promote a sense of belonging to that larger European family and a related sense of shared cultural identity. But a family and an identity which seek to include, and not to exclude!

This shared cultural identity has multiple layers, all of which are embedded in our cultural heritage. As a consequence, each historic monument, each heritage site, tells us also a European story, and not only a local or national one. Indeed, each of us can feel proud of our local, regional and national identities, and at the same time, feel proud to be European.

This is a key political message of this European Year.

Yesterday we have had an inspiring workshop moderated by Silvia Costa at a very symbolic venue: the House of European History!

We all agreed that we must give much higher priority to various forms of cultural education, and in particular to history teaching in a broader European context. Without proper teaching of European history, – cultural and social as much as political and economic -, we shall not be able to understand our cultural heritage in a wider European context.

And while giving stronger emphasis to history teaching, we must apply the method of “Multi-perspectiveness”. In this way, young Europeans will be better equipped to become responsible European citizens and to resist dangerous populist and nationalist narratives with related attempts of rewriting historical facts.

Honorable members of the European and national parliaments,

The European Year of Cultural Heritage has provided a golden opportunity to recognise the multiple benefits of our shared heritage for our society, our economy, our environment and our shared identity.

It has allowed us to strengthen the existing Alliances and to forge new ones.

And it has marked a turning point for the complex process of mainstreaming cultural heritage throughout EU policies.

Much has been achieved during this historic 2018, but we can achieve so much more in the years to come.

* Provided that the EU Institutions and Member States cooperate even closer together…;

* provided that the Member States and especially the national parliaments ensure the transposition of the key messages of this Year into national, regional and local legislations, strategies and action plans…,

* and provided that we further deepen and enlarge the fruitful interaction with the many stakeholders which have taken part, at all levels, in the implementation of the Year.

Let me end by referring once again to our Berlin Call to Action. TIME FOR ACTION IS NOW! This campaigning document calls for an ambitious European Action Plan for Cultural Heritage. We are delighted that EU Commissioner Tibor Navracsics will present this plan in 3 weeks time in Vienna!

I am pleased to announce that we have recently reached the symbolic figure of 2018 signatures, including Silvia Costa, Petra Kammerevert and some other MEPs!  Please, read it, sign it and share it widely through your parliaments, institutions and networks.

But as my colleague Uwe Koch from Germany said yesterday: the period of 12 months is far too short for such a vital topic! We now have the shared responsibility to sustain the momentum and to use the positive and cohesive power of our shared cultural heritage to give a deeper meaning and sense of direction to the entire European project.

Thank you!

Latest articles about Speeches

Speech – Plácido Domingo – Grande Soirée du Patrimoine Culturel 2019

Speech – Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović – “Civil Society for rEUnaissance” in Brussels

Speech – Plácido Domingo – European Heritage Awards Ceremony 2018

More Articles +