Brussels, 28 November 2013
European Heritage Label: Frequently Asked Questions
The European Heritage Label has recently been established by the European Union. What is it exactly?
The European Heritage Label (EHL) is a new European Union initiative aiming to highlight sites which have played a significant role in the history and culture of Europe and/or the creation and development of the EU. The Label will help to strengthen a sense of belonging to the EU, based on shared European history and cultural heritage, with young people as the main target audience. A further goal is to increase cultural tourism which will result in economic benefits. The sites selected for the Label may be of any kind, representing tangible or intangible heritage associated with a place, including contemporary heritage. The Label is open to all Member States on a voluntary basis. Up to now, 23 Member States have confirmed they wish to take part. Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Croatia will not participate for the time being, but can join the initiative later if they wish.
What is the difference between the European Heritage Label and existing initiatives such as the UNESCO World Heritage List?
The European Heritage Label has its own specific identity and objectives: it is not about a site’s beauty or architectural quality, but its symbolic value. Rather than conservation, the EHL focuses on promoting the activities on offer and their educational value.
How are sites awarded this Label?
The selection procedure involves two stages; First, potential EHL sites are nominated at national level. Then a panel of independent experts under the responsibility of the European Commission makes the final choice, according to the following criteria: the symbolic European value of the site and its role in the history and culture of Europe and/or in the creation and development of the EU; the quality of the project proposed by the site to promote its European dimension (information, educational activities etc.); and the quality of the work plan implemented by the site (sound management, access, communication etc.).
The Member States can propose sites which were previously awarded a label under the intergovernmental initiative. The new criteria will also apply for these sites.
The Commission designates the sites to be awarded the Label on the basis of the panel's recommendation.
What will happen with the sites previously awarded the Label?
Sites which received the label under the previous intergovernmental initiative will not lose it. However, they will need to submit a new proposal if they would like to be considered for the new European Heritage Label.
Sites receiving the new Label will have increased visibility; they will receive a new plaque and will be able to use the new EHL logo on their websites etc. They will also be able to take advantage of the general EHL communication strategy implemented by the Commission. Sites receiving the new Label will also be invited to the annual conference of site managers and benefit from networking opportunities and peer learning.
Who are the EHL panel's members?
The panel members in charge of assessing the applications are independent experts with substantial experience and expertise in the heritage field and without any conflict of interest with regard to the candidate sites. Four of them are appointed by the European Parliament, four by the Council, four by the European Commission, and one by the Committee of Regions.
The experts will normally be appointed for three years. However the first group of experts selected by the Commission will exceptionally serve for one year only and the first four experts chosen by the European Parliament for 2 years. This approach avoids the prospect of having to completely replace all the panel members at the same time in future and a loss of experience and know-how.
Bénédict Selfslagh, Christer Gustafsson, Jacek Purchla and Dessislava Gavrilova have been appointed by the Commission for 2013.
Jean Musitelli, Michele Rak, Beatrice Kelly and Roland Bernecker have been selected by the European Parliament for 2013 and 2014.
Francisco Prado-Vilar, Csilla Hegedüs, Irma Grigaitiené and Michel Thomas-Penette have been chosen by the Council of Ministers for 3 years (2013, 2014 and 2015).
Matthias Ripp has been appointed by the Committee of Regions for 3 years (2013, 2014 and 2015).
In order to safeguard the transparency and fairness of the process, contact between the candidate sites or Member States administrations with the panel on any issue linked to the EHL is forbidden.
Why have only Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Luxembourg and the Netherlands proposed sites this year? When will other Member States submit sites for the EHL?
An intergovernmental heritage label was previously awarded by Ministers of Culture in 18 Member States to around 65 sites in Europe. This intergovernmental designation was replaced by a more transparent selection established under a Decision adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in 2011.
In accordance with this Decision, the years 2013 and 2014 are 'transitional' years: 2013 is reserved for Member States which did not participate in the intergovernmental label and would like to be involved in the 'new’ EU Label. The five Member States concerned are Austria, Estonia, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. These Member States nominated a total of nine sites for the Label in 2013.
The second transitional year (2014) is reserved for the other 18 Member States which participated in the former intergovernmental initiative.
All Member States will be entitled to nominate sites as of 2015.
What are the main reasons why only four sites were recommended for the Label this year?
The panel carefully assessed the nine nominated sites against the criteria laid down by the EU Decision establishing the EHL. Following thorough debates, the experts concluded that four of the sites fully complied with the requirements of the Label. The detailed assessment of every site is available in the panel's report which is published on the European Commission website.
How long will the sites be able to keep the European Heritage Label?
The Label is awarded without any time limit. However, each site will be monitored on a regular basis by the independent panel to ensure that it continues to meet the criteria and respects the plans to which it committed in its application. The monitoring takes place every four years. The Commission can decide, on the basis of a negative assesment by the panel, to withdraw the Label.