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Brussels, 25 September 2008

Millions of people visit monuments during 2008 European Heritage Days supported by the EU

More than 30 000 sites and monuments are being opened to the public in 49 European countries throughout September and some 20 million people are expected to visit them. European Heritage Days have become a solid tradition, which is supported conjointly by the Council of Europe and the European Commission.

At this occasion the Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, Ján Figel' holds today a press conference together with Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Director General – Education, Culture and Heritage, Youth and Sport in the Council of Europe. The aim is to draw attention to the European dimension of the Days and present case studies to show how heritage can contribute in a practical way to life in multicultural societies.

The press conference is attended as well by the Director of the King Baudouin Foundation, Mr Guido Knops, who will link the 20th Anniversary of the European Heritage Days in Belgium with the first European Heritage Forum on “Heritage and Dialogue” which will take place in Brussels on 23-24 October 2008.

Three case studies presented by speakers from Estonia, France and the United Kingdom:

  • Mr. Henry Kuningas from the Cultural Heritage Department of the city of Tallinn in Estonia will highlight that the regenerative use of industrial cultural heritage in Europe can help increase cities' potential to attract new small and medium sized companies, can make them to become more attractive places to live and can contribute to their economic development and to citizen’s welfare;
  • Mr. Serge Grappin, Educational Adviser in the House of Heritage (Maison du Patrimoine), Saint Romain, France will present an example of how cultural heritage can be used to help rehabilitate young offenders by offering them a chance to break with their usual environment, immerse themselves in sites which are steeped in history and help them unleash emotion and curiosity;
  • Ms Judy Ling Wong CBE, FRSA, Director of the Black Environment Network in the United Kingdom will be presenting a project with a particular focus on the variety of cultures in society, aiming at including people from various cultural backgrounds and showing how cultures are interlinked.

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The Council of Europe officially instituted the "European Heritage Days" (EHD) in 1991, with the support of the European Union. Since then the Council has assigned responsibility for the practical aspects of organising the European Heritage Days to a co-ordination office appointed for a set period: the Stichting Open Monumentendag (the Netherlands) from 1991 to 1994, the King Baudouin Foundation (Belgium) from 1994 to 2000, the Centro Nacional de Cultura (Portugal) for 2001-2006 and now Europa Nostra. Since 1999 the EHD have been run as a joint initiative with the European Union.

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