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Brussels, 6 February 2013
Statement by Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn at the launch of the Pompeii rescue project
This is an extraordinary place - and I am delighted to be here to help launch the start of work. It is good to be here not just to make an announcement but because real work has begun on the site.
I must pay tribute to the efforts of minister Barca and his colleagues for turning this idea into a tangible project, motivating and enlisting the help of his colleagues and getting a team together that is now going full steam ahead.
We have just now seen a presentation of this project in front of the press. It was informative, fully transparent so everyone can follow the progress of this important project. This is exactly the way we should proceed.
We approved 41.8 million EUR of EU regional money in March 2012 as a major project – and now, on my second visit to Pompeii, I would like to say I am really determined that this project should succeed: Pompeii is of huge cultural importance to Europe, the rest of the world and to Italy. It is also of great economic significance to this region of Campania which in this time of crisis is vitally important.
This a small, first but very important step towards our goal.
We are on the eve, hopefully in the final negotiations for a budget for 2014-2020. I think it is rather likely we will get an agreement where Italy will get a good envelope.
On Pompeii, once we get an agreement on the budget we must make sure we continue with this kind cultural project dedicated to preserve and renovate these vital heritage sites in Italy.
This is not just about the cultural heritage of Europe, of Italy but it is also a huge economic opportunity.
I think it is true to say that around 55 years ago there were more than 50 places in Pompeii that were open to the public. Today there aren't more than 5 at a time. We must turn that around as soon as possible. If we can make this site more attractive, more accessible, we can attract many more visitors and we already have more than 2 million a year.
The economic benefits of conserving the Pompeii project for future generations could be enormous. Driven by high quality tourism - we are talking about new jobs and protect existing ones.
This project could also stand as a model for the rest of Italy which is so rich in these kind of sites and cultural heritage.
As far as Italy's performance in cohesion policy goes for 2012 it was annus mirabilis. Minister Barca has taken important steps, he is not an election candidate so I can say this - we need to continue on the same path he has set, we must not try to reinvent the wheel. We need to do more of the same, I only wish that we could accelerate what we are doing and make sure it continues.
I have to say there still is a risk of losing 2 billion euro so it is absolutely essential to stay as committed as in the past. You should assume that I and the European Commission remain at your disposal to do everything to achieve our common goals. Grazie.