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European Commission - Press release

Grand Prix winners of EU Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards announced

Brussels/Lisbon,1 June 2012 – The names of the winners of the public choice award and six 'Grand Prix' laureates in the 2012 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards will be announced this evening at the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon, in the presence of Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, and Plácido Domingo, the world-renowned tenor and President of Europa Nostra. The ceremony will be attended by an audience of 1200 people including Aníbal Cavaco Silva, President of Portugal, and Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia of Asturias.

The winner of the public choice award, chosen in an online poll from among the 28 overall laureates for 2012 (see IP/12/254), are the fortifications of Pamplona in Spain. The jury commented: "The restored fortifications are no longer a defensive wall, but a meeting place and a symbol of unity for the citizens and for the town."

The six Grand Prix winning projects (jury comments below) are for:

Speaking ahead of the ceremony, Commissioner Vassiliou commented: "For 10 years, the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards has become the most prestigious of its kind in Europe. I would like to thank all the winners for their energetic commitment to protecting our cultural heritage and Europa Nostra and the juries for their sterling work. The Prize has proven very effective in raising awareness among decision-makers and the public about the value of cultural heritage for European society and the economy and our responsibility for protecting it for future generations. This is why we intend to continue supporting cultural heritage through the Culture programme and the future Creative Europe programme."

Europa Nostra’s President, Plácido Domingo, added: "Our award winners stand for excellence, for passion and for dedication. They are perfect ambassadors of the power of our 'Creative Europe'. Europa Nostra and the European Commission are committed to unlocking the full potential of Europe's cultural and natural heritage. They are the key to social cohesion as well as for sustainable economic growth in Europe."

All 28 winning projects will be honoured during the ceremony in Lisbon.


The ceremony takes place under the patronage of Aníbal Cavaco Silva, President of Portugal, who will speak at the ceremony, and of José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, who has sent a video message. Guilherme d'Oliveira Martins, President of the Centro Nacional de Cultura, will welcome the guests. The European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards has been organised by Europa Nostra and the European Commission since 2002.

The 28 winners were selected from among 226 submitted projects from 38 countries. The final choice was made by juries composed of independent experts from across Europe ( IP/12/254). The winners receive a plaque or trophy. The six 'Grand Prix' winners also receive €10,000.

Cultural heritage brings a significant – and often underrated – contribution to growth and job creation. It represents a significant part of the cultural and creative sectors, which provide jobs for 8.5 million people in the EU and contribute up to 4.5% of Europe's GDP. Spending on conservation of cultural heritage by public and private bodies is worth an estimated €5 billion a year. Figures published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that 40% of worldwide international tourism has a cultural dimension. Cultural heritage is also a key resource for sustainable development and social cohesion.

The awards are supported by the Culture programme of the European Union, which has invested €30 million in co-financing heritage projects since 2007. Other EU-funded programmes also provide support in this area: since 2007 the European Regional Development Fund has allocated €3 billion for the protection and preservation of cultural heritage, €2.2 billion for the development of cultural infrastructure and €775 million to support cultural services; a further €150 million has been invested through EU Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development since 1998.

Note to editors

Europa Nostra is the Voice of Cultural Heritage in Europe. It brings together and represents 250 non-governmental and non-profit organisations with a combined membership of at least 5 million citizens from all over Europe. It also counts on the direct support of over 1500 individual members and more than 150 associate public authorities and corporations. Its vast network of professionals and volunteers is committed to safeguarding Europe’s cultural heritage for present and future generations.

The awards ceremony in Lisbon forms part of Europa Nostra's annual European Heritage Congress. One of the themes of this year's Congress will be 'Saving Europe's Endangered Heritage'.

The deadline to apply for the next awards is 1 October 2012. The next awards ceremony is expected to take place in Athens in June 2013.

Video interview

Video interview with Commissioner Vassiliou on Creative Europe and cultural heritage (interview by Wolter Braamhorst, Europa Nostra)

To find out more


Social Media

Androulla Vassiliou's website

Twitter: @VassiliouEU


Jury's comments on the six Grand Prix projects:

Category 1 – Conservation

The Averof Building - School of Architecture, National Technical University, Athens, GREECE

An excellent example of a fine and sophisticated restoration and renovation intervention, on a building that constitutes one of the most important creations of European Neoclassicism, directly influenced in its design by the Monuments of the Athenian Acropolis. Fully restored to its original architectural quality and equipped with the most adequate contemporary technological infrastructure installations, the Averof can rest assured of the continuation of its use as an educational institution, the purpose for which it had been originally intended.”

Number 2 Blast Furnace, Sagunto, SPAIN

“The jury pays homage to the sustained effort to save this exceptional monument and to allow for its understanding by future generations. The surviving blast furnaces of the twentieth-century iron and steel industry represent one of the most difficult challenges for those who believe that the intelligent preservation of the physical legacy of this industry is vital for an understanding of Europe’s shared history; c oal and steel, after all, were at the origins of the European Union. The new status and newly revealed beauty of this 1920s blast furnace restores pride to the population of a town that grew out of iron and steel, and creates a unique and powerful cultural asset of interest to the people of Europe as a whole.”

The Poundstock Gildhouse, Bude, Cornwall, UNITED KINGDOM

“Among the many sophisticated and palatial projects they were invited to consider, the Jury were excited to discover this modest but meticulously restored example of the vernacular. Church houses were truly communal buildings, combining functional spaces such as kitchens and meeting rooms with an open hall above for village feasting and dancing. Few have survived. Poundstock Gildhouse, after periods as a school and a poor house, has since reverted to its original purpose. The Jury expressed unqualified admiration for the traditional techniques adopted in giving the cob walls, windows and timber-cruck roof a renewed lease of life.”

Category 2 – Research

The Augustus Botanical code of Ara Pacis, Rome, ITALY

The Jury was impressed with the fine interdisciplinary research displayed and the exceptional quality of the publication. The dual text (Italian and English) allows the work to be read and appreciated widely. The Ara Pacis in Rome was erected to celebrate the return of Augustus from an expedition in 13 BC. The carvings include a wonderful ornate array of flora and fauna which, as the author argues, were accurately observed in the countryside and are not merely decoration but have symbolic meaning promising rebirth and a new era.”

Category 3 – Dedicated Service

Paraschiva Kovacs, Satu Mare, Harghita County, ROMANIA

As a schoolteacher in a small community Paraschiva Kovacs has dedicated over 40 years of her life to the inventory and preservation of the artifacts of the past, as symbols of living heritage for a community. Thanks to her personal investment, her pedagogic talent, her professional skills, convincing power and contagious enthusiasm she created for several generations a different attitude and behaviour towards local history and heritage preservation. She is an extraordinary example for those modest, dedicated people all over Europe who without many resources succeed in raising awareness on the importance of the preservation of the past for the benefit of the future.”

Category 4 – Education, Training and Awareness-Raising

Improve a Heritage Site - Norwegian Heritage Foundation, Vågå, NORWAY

“The Jury appreciates the pedagogical approach of engaged teachers with young schoolchildren on heritage sites, that otherwise would have been left over to degradation and neglect. By cleaning and clearing small scale landmarks in forests, fields and other rural areas, the next generation gets actively involved and is made aware of their heritage treasures that might not initially appear outstanding, but that are remarkable for the cultural landscape. The collaboration of schools with local authorities is an example of best practice at low cost, which can be recommended to teaching institutions all over Europe.”

Contacts: Dennis Abbott (+32 2 295 92 58) Dina Avraam (+32 2 295 96 67)

For Europa Nostra:

Elena Bianchi: +31.70.302.40.58

Giuseppe Simone: +31.70.302.40.59

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