This week the European Parliament debated and adopted a report on the future of cultural heritage in Europe. The report highlighted the economic importance of cultural heritage and pointed the way towards further European legislation in this field.
In May 2014, EU Culture Ministers called for the “mainstreaming of cultural heritage in national and European policies” and “the development of a strategic approach to cultural heritage”. To this end, the European Commission published a ‘Communication’ in July 2014, entitled Towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage for Europe. The document took note of the existing underestimation in Europe of the impact of cultural heritage on economic growth, and emphasised the need for Member States and stakeholders to prosper from the opportunities available in promoting European cultural heritage, using EU tools and working in a more integrated way across borders.
While cultural heritage policy is primarily the responsibility of the individual EU Member States, a range of supportive measures at the EU level are in place aimed at safeguarding and enhancing European cultural heritage. Thus, the role of the EU is to assist and complement the actions taken by its Member States.
Following the Communication, the European Parliament, led by its Culture and Education Committee, drafted an own-initiative report on the subject, which was tabled for a vote and adopted during this week’s plenary session in Strasbourg by a vote of 613 to 70 (with 19 abstentions).
The Commission’s response was presented by Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, who affirmed that “the report will help the Commission to fine-tune the existing instruments and to make further progress on putting into practice tools, policies and mechanisms in an integrated way to address the challenges the heritage sector is facing today”. In addition, “the Commission will also continue to enhance internal cooperation and availability of information on financing opportunities within the existing European funding programmes”.
It is important to note that despite the fact that an own-initiative report is not legally binding, it indicates Parliament’s views on the subject, exercising some pressure on the Commission to present a legislative proposal. In this respect, the report is significant: it had generally been perceived that the EU had not been giving enough discussion time or resources to the promotion of European culture, being overshadowed by other pressing issues, such as the economic crisis and now the refugee crisis. The report highlights that cultural heritage in Europe serves various purposes and goes hand-in-hand with the goals of growth and prosperity in the Union. As a result, the report will serve as a basis for reinforcing in the coming years the incorporation of cultural heritage issues into all relevant EU policies and funding instruments.
Ana Laura Blanco is an EU Regulatory and Policy Advisor with DLA Piper in Brussels.