Successful Europe Day Webinar jointly organised by Europa Nostra and Europeana Foundation

Sold-out Europe Day Webinar launches the plea for a “European New Deal for Cultural Heritage”

On 9 May 2020, on the occasion of Europe Day which this year marked the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration and the launch of the process of European integration, Europa Nostra and the Europeana Foundation co-hosted the sold-out webinar ‘Cultural Heritage: a powerful catalyst for the future of Europe’ on behalf of the European Heritage Alliance.

For the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, high-level heritage decision-makers representing European Institutions, Member States and civil society have gathered virtually to have an open conversation in front of a large audience from the cultural heritage world in Europe and beyond. The prominent speakers composing the panel of the Webinar were Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth; Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee; Nina Obuljen-Koržinek, Croatian Minister of Culture and Acting Chair of the EU Council of Ministers; Sabine Verheyen, Chair of the European Parliament Culture and Education Committee; Anne Karjalainen, Member of the European Committee of the Regions and Chair of the SEDEC commission; Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and Executive President of Europa Nostra; as well as Stéphane Bern, well-known French author and TV journalist. The Webinar was moderated by Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra and Harry Verwayen, Executive Director of Europeana Foundation.

The Europe Day Webinar attracted great attention and interest, reaching peak registration capacity in just a few days. Circa 1,000 people from 60 different countries registered, covering all Europe and well beyond, including for example registered participants from Botswana, Indonesia, Israel, Canada, Pakistan, Philippines or Qatar. Among the participants were policy-makers (including MEPs) and representatives of heritage institutions at all levels of governance; heritage professionals and volunteers; researchers, academics and students, as well as representatives of private foundations and civil society organisations, in addition to many heritage supporters and lovers.

Renewed commitment for cultural heritage and support for the pan-European heritage movement

The eminent speakers discussed the major role the cultural heritage sector should play in the unprecedented plans that EU Institutions and Member States are preparing for the recovery and transformation of Europe’s society and economy. They were invited to react to and discuss the European Heritage Alliance Manifesto ‘Cultural Heritage: a powerful catalyst for the future of Europe’ published on the same day and on the occasion of the Webinar by members of the European Heritage Alliance. Through this Manifesto, the cultural heritage world expresses its readiness to contribute to Europe’s immediate social and economic recovery, as well as to the longer-term advancement of the European project. The European Heritage Alliance Day Manifesto also puts forward important and concrete ways in which cultural heritage can act as a catalyst for positive change.

Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of Europa Nostra, introduced the Europan Heritage Alliance Manifesto to the panelists, highlighting the key ways in which cultural heritage can contribute to healing, greening, regenerating, digitally transforming and experiencing Europe as well as for boosting the sense of “being Europe” and also for embracing the wider global solidarity, perspectives and opportunities. In his opening remarks, Harry Verwayen, Executive Director of Europeana Foundation addressed cultural heritage as a ‘lab and testing ground, for social and technological innovation’, which Europe needs more than ever in these trying times of ongoing crisis.

Speakers warmly welcomed the European Heritage Alliance Manifesto and expressed their appreciation for this important document. Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, recalled that cultural heritage embodies Europe’s history and identity, bridging our past, present and future. ‘We should build on the important results of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018, but we shall also aim to take the mainstreaming of cultural heritage into all EU policies to the next level. Cultural heritage is not a sector, but it is Europe’s soul’ she added. She also quoted Jean Monnet, reminding that ‘People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them’, and invited all participants to ‘Seize this crisis as an opportunity to reaffirm the heart of our EU project: culture and cultural heritage’.

Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and Executive President of Europa Nostra, reminded the worrying impact of the crisis on the heritage world, including important financial implications and the complete loss of tourism and visitors due to the lockdown implemented to contain the pandemic. He also reminded that ‘The crisis has proven how important the digital transformation of the heritage sector is. It has become more crucial than ever to make culture and heritage accessible for all. Cultural heritage contributes to the mental and intellectual wellbeing, and to the Healing of Europe’.

Nina Obuljen-Koržinek, Croatian Minister of Culture, recalled the challenging circumstances in which Croatia is holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, not only marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also by a devastating earthquake that hit Zagreb last March, which affected valuable heritage assets. In this context, she referred to the re-opening of heritage institutions and museums in Croatia as a message of hope and joy. ‘We were deeply touched to see citizens queuing to access museums, libraries and cultural places. This proves the importance of culture and heritage and its power to enrich our lives as human beings.’ she said. ‘The future is uncertain, but if there is strength and innovation in our society, these can be found in the fields of culture, arts and heritage’ she added.

Renowned French author and TV journalist Stéphane Bern reminded that cultural heritage is what binds all Europeans together, unity being what we need the most in these difficult times. He also stressed the importance of cultural heritage as a vector for economic and sustainable development in Europe. ‘Today, let us altogether launch a European New Deal for Cultural Heritage!‘ he pledged passionately.

Anne Karjalainen, Member of the European Committee of the Regions and Chair of the SEDEC Commission, stressed the importance of cultural heritage in reinforcing our multiple and complementary identities, including local, regional, national and European ones. She highlighted the need to empower the cultural and heritage sectors to allow their contribution to Europe’s recovery, in line with the European Green Deal, the European Pillar of Social Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals. ‘Culture and cultural heritage should have a more prominent place in the discussions on the future of Europe and in the post-crisis recovery plans of the EU’ she added.

Sabine Verheyen, Chair of the European Parliament Culture and Education Committee, recalled the importance of culture, heritage and the creative sectors for the individual and social well being of Europe’s inhabitants. ‘We need to fight for the doubling of the Creative Europe programme budget, as we will need more resources to support the “Renascimiento” of the sector after the crisis. We also need to make sure that culture and heritage are duly included in and receive a fair share of the EU recovery programmes’ she added.

Last but not least, Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee, recalled that culture and heritage have the potential to be a unifying and mobilising force to relaunch and reconstruct our societies in the aftermath of the pandemic and to pave the way to a new Renaissance for Europe. ‘We urgently need to establish a new sense of belonging, of compassion, of fraternity, of normality – and culture and heritage are great assets for this’, he added.

The Europe Day Webinar provided a perfect opportunity to collectively reflect on the role that cultural heritage can play in resetting our economies and societies after the crisis as to ensure a greener, more equitable, prosperous and cohesive Europe. What’s more, concrete ideas and alternatives to make this possible were put forward. The Europe Day Webinar and Manifesto also paved the way for a renewed, much stronger commitment for cultural heritage and support for the pan-European heritage movement among all the relevant organisations and institutions involved. Watch the full recording here.

Next steps – SIGN MANIFESTO NOW!

The European Heritage Alliance Manifesto is now open for signatures by individuals and organisations and has already received the support of some hundreds of signatories. We invite you to sign it now and help us unfold the cohesive power of cultural heritage for the Future of Europe!

The Manifesto is being translated into different languages and being widely disseminated by Europa Nostra, the Europeana Foundation and all the members of the European Heritage Alliance. It was also submitted to all Presidents of EU Institutions and also to all EU Ministers in charge of culture ahead of their next meeting (via Video-conference) of 19 May 2020.

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