European Commission proposes European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018

European Commission proposes European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018

The day of 19 April 2016 shall be remembered as a historic day for our ever-growing European movement for cultural heritage. During the opening session of the bi-annual European Culture Forum in Brussels, Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, publicly announced that the European Commission will propose to the EU Council and the European Parliament that 2018 will be the European Year of Cultural Heritage, following an exchange of letters between President Jean-Claude Juncker and President Martin Schultz (click here for the address made by Commissioner Navracsics).

This announcement was followed by a powerful and engaged speech by Silvia Costa, MEP, who is the Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education of the European Parliament. Silvia Costa has been one of the main supporters of the proposed Year within the European Parliament and is in close dialogue with all stakeholders concerned. “Culture and cultural heritage should be the new soul and new identity for a new Europe,” concluded Silvia Costa. In the afternoon, the Italian Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, also expressed the full support of his government to the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018.

Europa Nostra’s Vice-President Piet Jaspaert and Secretary General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović have had the great pleasure to attend the European Cultural Forum and to witness this important public announcement. Representatives from other European Networks working in the wider field of heritage, who are members of our European Heritage Alliance 3.3, also participated in the Forum.

“Together we have had the opportunity to congratulate in person Commissioner Navracsics and MEP Silvia Costa immediately after their speeches on their decisive leadership and commitment to rallying the support of the European Commission and European Parliament for the proposed European Year of Cultural Heritage. We also assured these high-level representatives from the EU Institutions that the civil society networks and organisations active in the field of heritage stand ready to contribute to the implementation of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018 with creativity and energy. During the plenary session of the European Heritage Alliance 3.3., held on the eve of the European Culture Forum (18 April – World Heritage Day!), at the Europa Nostra’s Brussels Office, we had a preliminary discussion on the main messages we hope to convey, the tools we intend to use, as well as the outcomes which we aim to achieve during the Year,” stated Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović in a special message sent today to the wide network of Europa Nostra.

Europa Nostra and its President, Maestro Plácido Domingo, applaud this important development at this high level of the European Union, which is a remarkable achievement for us all, but also an immense responsibility. “We look forward to celebrating the future European Year of Cultural Heritage, together with Commissioner Navracsics, with many members and partners, and together with proud laureates of our European Heritage Awards run in partnership with the European Commission, on the occasion of our forthcoming European Heritage Congress which will be held in Madrid on 22-27 May. We therefore hope that you will join us in Madrid in big numbers where we will have the opportunity to continue our discussion on the ways in which we can ensure that the European Year of Cultural Heritage will serve as a platform for connecting and amplifying many excellent heritage initiatives – local, regional, national and European – which have already been developed across Europe,” affirmed the President of Europa Nostra.

At a time when the European Union is confronted with a wide range of political, economic and social challenges, and at a time when the entire European project is threatened by alarming forms of extremism and Euroscepticism, the decision to declare 2018 as the European Year of Cultural Heritage has a very special meaning and significance, both for the European Union Institutions and Member States and for Europe’s communities and citizens.

“Therefore we now wish to reach out to each and every member of our wide European family, to listen carefully to your views, concerns, dreams and ideas, and to invite you to get actively engaged in the exciting process ahead of us. Let us have a regular and creative dialogue in the months to come which we shall gladly bring to the due attention of policy and decision makers in Europe and incorporate as much as possible in Europa Nostra’s 3-year strategic and action plan for 2017-2019 with the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 at its heart”, emphasised the Secretary General of Europa Nostra.

European Historic Houses Association Congress and General Assembly Brussels and Eastern Flanders

European Historic Houses Association Congress and General Assembly Brussels and Eastern Flanders

From the 1st to the 4th of October, the European Historic Houses Association organised its annual General Assembly in Brussels and the province of Eastern-Flanders. The four-day event, that was hosted with the support of the Association Royale des Demeures Historiques et Jardins de Belgique, included  a successful conference entitled “Europe’s Private Heritage at Risk”, visits to historic houses in the area around Ghent and a prestigious gala dinner attended by, among others, S.A.R. the Prince Lorenz of Belgium.

Every year, the European Historic Houses Association organizes a General Assembly for its governors, the representatives of its member associations and observers from across Europe. This year, this event took place between the 1st and the 4th of October. These four days provided a perfect opportunity for the association to discuss its accomplishments of the past year, as well as to agree on the priorities and challenges for the years to come. At the same time, it was an occasion to share best practices and innovative projects for the preservation of Europe’s fragile historic houses.

One priority that came up repeatedly in both the formal meetings and the visits to historic houses in Eastern Flanders was the issue of financing. Our members are often, and rightly so, proud to manage historic buildings and art collections. However, with this privilege come enormous responsibilities. For example, with regards to the high standards that exist for renovating historic houses. Attaining these standards can be a significant financial burden and the impressive work owners of historic houses do, often with very limited funds deserves to be recognized and supported by the relevant authorities.

The European Historic Houses Association strongly believes that authorities should sustain this hard work by owners by providing fiscal incentives. The potential such measures have was not only clear from the discussions between our members, it was also apparent during the visits to the castles of Beerlegem, Nokere, Huysse, Ooidonk and Leeuwergem. The passionate stories of the castle owners during these visits shed light on the enormous cost associated with, but also on the necessity of, preserving and renovating fragile Historic Heritage.

The recommendations of the European Parliament in its recent resolution ‘Towards an Integrated Approach to Cultural Heritage in Europe’ to apply lower VAT rates and exchange best practices on fiscal policies for the restoration, preservation and conservation of cultural heritage, were therefore very encouraging. These suggestions from the Parliament will be central to the actions of the European Historic Houses Association and its members on both the European and the national level in the years to come.

The need to sustain Europe’s cultural heritage was also apparent in the conference “Europe’s Private Heritage at Risk” on the 2nd of October. In the opening speech to this forum, Mr. Nymand-Christensen, the Deputy Director of the DG Education and Culture of the European Commission, emphasised that good cooperation between public authorities and owners is vital to the sustainability of cultural goods. Building on this, the panellists, including politicians, owners of historic houses, representatives of civil society and police officers, discussed on the topics of “Best ways to sustain our cultural heritage” and “Best ways to protect our cultural goods”.

One area in which they clearly identified a need for increased collaboration is the issue of the illicit trafficking of cultural goods. Stolen goods can cross borders easily, and it is important that law enforcement units work with owners to be able to quickly trace these objects. Françoise Bortolotti, an officer on Interpol’s art unit, stressed that stolen works of art can only be identified and repatriated if the owners provide pictures and date adhering to the standardized criteria of Object ID.

Next year, the programme of the General Assembly will be split in two, with the traditional visits and gala dinner being hosted by the Österreichischer Burgenverein in Austria in May, and the General Assembly itself as well as the annual European Historic Houses Conference taking place in October in Brussels. Preparations for these events have already started and the team of the European Historic Houses Association looks forward to once again hosting its members for enriching visits and discussions.

Fons Wilmes

The full programme of the event is available on our website.

European Parliament Resolution, “Towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage in Europe”, 8 September 2015, 2014/2149(INI).

The requirements of Object ID can be consulted online here.

E-FAITH Now Building a Database on Historic Harbour Cranes in Europe

E-FAITH Now Building a Database on Historic Harbour Cranes in Europe

The E-FAITH steering group on historic cranes is now building a web-database on historic harbour cranes in Europe. This database will include general information and documentation about cranes, and, most importantly, a list of cranes used at maritime as well as inland harbours, and on canals and river banks.

Information on the Cranes steering group can be found here.
The first tests of the cranes database are now online here.

Are you aware of existing cranes in one of the member states of the Council of Europe? Please send them photos and details. Guidelines and a questionnaire which you can use can be downloaded here.

Don’t hesitate to send them some photographs and information about the location of the cranes – even submissions that are not complete have their value, as they will put them on the agenda.

Many thanks for your collaboration

Photo: Chatham Dockyard Historic Crane captured by pyntofmyld

IFLA Europe joins the Alliance

IFLA Europe joins the Alliance

We are very pleased to welcome IFLA Europe, the International Federation of Landscape Architects, as 32nd member of our Alliance!

The Vision of IFLA Europe is to establish the importance of all matters relating to landscape and landscape architecture as the physical, socio-economic, cultural, visual, conceptual and spatial context of our European communities.

For more information on this new member see:

IFLA Europe publishes a journal. Its second issue is titled ‘Adaptive Capacity of Cities’ and is available online:

Photo: Central Trail in the Parque Quinta de los Molioas in Madrid, Spain, which is part of the IFLA Europe network captured by Jose Manuel Mazintosh