Brussels, 5 March 2014
European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou is calling for stronger coordination between local, regional and national authorities in Italy to ensure that the ancient city of Pompeii is protected from further damage.
"The European Commission recognises that, as one of the world's most important archaeological sites, the preservation of Pompeii is not just an Italian responsibility. We work closely with the Italian authorities and have provided €78 million in funding from the EU Regional Funds for Pompeii since 2007.
"But the local, regional and national authorities must do more and coordinate better to ensure that the money being spent is used effectively and that Pompeii is saved for future generations," added the Commissioner.
Commissioner Vassiliou will voice her concerns about the damage to Pompeii when she opens an EU conference on cultural heritage in Athens tomorrow (6 March).
Over the weekend, heavy rains damaged the Temple of Venus and resulted in the collapse of an ancient wall at the site. The damage was the latest in a series of structural problems, including the partial collapse of the House of the Gladiators (Schola Armatorum) in November 2010.
The €78 million in EU funding for Pompeii was part of a total investment of €105 million. This funding, managed by Italian authorities, was for long-term, high-tech structural works in the most at-risk areas and a water drainage system planned for the non-excavated site overlooking the ancient buildings.
Pompeii, together with nearby Herculaneum, was buried under an avalanche of falling ash, rock and mud after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD. When the area was excavated in the mid-18th century, engineers discovered a large number of artifacts in a near-perfect state of preservation. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997, Pompeii is one of Europe's most popular destinations for cultural tourism, attracting around 2.3 million visitors a year.
In 2007-2013, the European Regional Development Fund allocated nearly €6 billion for the protection and preservation of cultural heritage, development of cultural infrastructure and support for cultural services across the EU. In the same period, the EU Culture programme invested more than €30 million in safeguarding and promoting cultural heritage with support for more than 130 projects. Cultural heritage is also supported under the new Creative Europe programme.