Strasbourg: Council of Europe’s new Secretary General receives delegation from Europa Nostra

On 10 February, a delegation of Europa Nostra, composed of our Executive Vice-President Guy Clausse, Vice-President Piet Jaspaert and Secretary General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, went to Strasbourg for a high-level meeting with the newly elected Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić. They also met with three Ambassadors to the Council of Europe, namely Irakli Giviashvili (Ambassador of Georgia), Panayiotis Beglitis (Ambassador of Greece) and Rolf Mafael (Ambassador of Germany). Georgia is currently holding the Presidency of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, to be followed by Greece (May-November 2020) and Germany (November 2020-May 2021).

With the view to renew and deepen Europa Nostra’s long-standing cooperation with the Council of Europe, these meetings were the perfect occasion to reaffirm that cultural heritage lies at the core of our shared European values, including the respect of Human Rights and Democracy. The topics discussed included some of the most urgent challenges which the European continent is facing, and how a renewed political commitment and understanding of cultural heritage can contribute to addressing issues such as climate change and youth participation.

Marija Pejčinović Burić thanked Europa Nostra for the many years of fruitful dialogue as representatives of Europe’s civil society committed to cultural heritage. During the conversation, concern was expressed about the shrinking space for civil society in some European countries and there was agreement that the Council of Europe will continue to advocate the vital role of civil society for Europe’s democracy. The Europa Nostra delegation also encouraged the Council of Europe to build on successful cooperation and joint initiatives with the European Union (e.g. European Heritage Days) to further encourage and inspire the work of the EU in the heritage field.

Europa Nostra representatives took this opportunity to present the Paris Manifesto “Let us relaunch the European project through culture & cultural heritage”, which encapsulates the policy conclusions of the European Cultural Heritage Summit 2019 in Paris and conveys a strong message on the strategic role of cultural heritage for the future of Europe. This important document stresses “the importance of involving all Council of Europe member countries and countries of the Mediterranean basin in future EU action with regard to culture and cultural heritage, thus recognising the existence of a common cultural space and shared cultural heritage that goes beyond the geographical borders of the Union”. Matjaž Gruden, Council of Europe’s Director of Democratic Participation, who took part in the meeting with the Secretary General, particularly praised this document and encouraged Europa Nostra to continue playing an active role in reviving a strong commitment of the Council of Europe to cultural heritage.

The delegation congratulated the Secretary General and other representatives of the Council of Europe on their most recent initiatives fostering the promotion of cultural heritage, to which Europa Nostra has also contributed. It has expressed Europa Nostra’s support for cultural heritage-related activities which will be undertaken in the frame of the ongoing Georgian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers, as well as during the upcoming Greek and German presidencies.

They reiterated their full support to the creation of an Observatory for History Teaching in Europe initiated by the French Presidency of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, which aims at stimulating debate and sharing of best practices in teaching our common history and heritage. Ahead of the meeting of Education Ministers in Paris on 26 November 2019, which provided an opportunity to lay the project’s foundations, Europa Nostra expressed its support in a letter addressed to the French Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer and the French Secretary of State in charge of European Affairs Amélie de Montchalin.

Such examples also include the European Heritage Strategy for the 21st Century and related “Golden Collection” of good practices, which was presented at a roundtable debate hosted by the French Chairmanship of the Council of Ministers in Strasbourg on 13 June 2019. The special publication contains around 30 best practices that illustrate recommendations of the Strategy 21 and was prepared by the Council of Europe in partnership with the French Ministry of Culture. For each of these recommendations, a best-practice example from among the laureates of the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards features upon the initiative of Europa Nostra in the complete list of more than 100 inspiring good practices which is available online.

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