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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 22 July 2014

Commissioner Vassiliou: cultural heritage to gain from stronger European support

Cultural heritage organisations should seize the opportunities of European Union funding programmes and policies to help address the challenges facing the sector, according to a new report by the European Commission. The policy document, entitled 'Towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage for Europe', states that the sector is at a "crossroads" with reduced public budgets, falling participation in traditional cultural activities and diversifying potential audiences due to urbanization, globalisation and technological change. But it also highlights opportunities for Member States and stakeholders to work more closely across borders to ensure that cultural heritage contributes more to sustainable growth and jobs.

Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: "Europe needs to maximise the intrinsic, economic and societal value of cultural heritage. It should be the centre of heritage-based innovation, seizing the opportunities created by digitisation and promoting our heritage expertise worldwide. Across the EU, we need to encourage a more people-friendly approach in heritage sites and museums, using new techniques and technologies to attract visitors and reach young people in particular. In short, we need to bring history alive. I am pleased that heritage stands to gain from stronger European support over the next seven years."

The report calls for stronger cooperation at EU level to share ideas and best practice, which can feed into national heritage policies and governance. It also welcomes the approach set by the EU's Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, which requires a project's impact on cultural heritage to be considered, and the General Block Exemption Regulation which allows state aid for the sector. It encourages a similar approach to support heritage in broader policy-making at EU, national and regional levels.

Cultural heritage has already benefitted from significant EU funding, including €3.2 billion from the European Regional Development Fund in 2007-2013. Major conservation works at the Parthenon and Pompeii were among the schemes to receive support. EU programmes provided a further €1.2 billion for rural heritage and around €100 million for heritage-related research. Cultural heritage is expected to benefit from even higher EU investments in 2014-2020, for example through the European Structural and Investment Funds (with a total budget of €351 billion for regional policy), Horizon 2020 (€80 billion for research) and Creative Europe (€1.5 billion for cultural and creative industries).

There are also significant funding and policy opportunities in many areas related to cultural heritage such as local and regional development, education, support to SMEs and tourism. Indeed, tourism in the EU is worth €415 billion per year and accounts for 15 million jobs – many linked to heritage, directly or indirectly. Some 27% of EU travellers surveyed for a Eurobarometer on tourism (May 2011) said that cultural heritage was a key factor in choosing a destination.


In May this year EU Culture Ministers called for the Commission to "pursue the analysis of the economic and social impact of cultural heritage in the EU and contribute to a development of a strategic approach".

The communication adopted by the Commission today is a response to this request. It aims to help Member States and stakeholders to make the most of the significant support for heritage available under EU instruments, progress towards a more integrated approach at national and EU level, and ultimately make Europe a laboratory for heritage-based innovation.

Support for cultural heritage at EU level stems from Article 3.3 of the Treaty on European Union, which states that the Union shall ensure that Europe's cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced. Article 167 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union states that the Union shall contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity and at the same time bringing common cultural heritage to the fore.

The Commission has also produced a mapping report to accompany the communication, with more details of EU policy and funding relevant to the heritage sector.

For more information

Communication – Towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage for Europe

Mapping report – heritage in EU policies

Commissioner Vassiliou's website

Creative Europe website

Follow Androulla Vassiliou on Twitter @VassiliouEU

Contacts : Dennis Abbott (+32 2 295 92 58); Twitter: @DennisAbbott

Dina Avraam (+32 2 295 96 67)

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