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President of the European Commission
Launch of Europeana
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure – and some satisfaction – that I help launch Europeana today. A digital doorway to Europe's culture in all its glorious diversity!
And how appropriate that we should celebrate this launch in the Palace of Charles of Lorraine – the Governor-General of the Austrian Netherlands, whose love of European art and culture turned him into one of the most passionate collectors of the 18th century.
Europeana, on the other hand, is very much a collection of art and culture for the 21st century. From today, millions of digitized books, maps, recordings, paintings, films, photographs and archive documents, from the collections of all 27 EU Member States, are only a mouse-click away for anyone who wants to access them.
It's a staggering achievement, of which all those involved can be proud. And this online treasure trove can only gain in importance over the coming years, as it continues to expand.
I believe that Europeana has the potential to change the way people see European culture. It will make it easier for our citizens to appreciate their own past, but also to become more aware of their common European identity.
And anyone in the world with an interest in literature, art, politics, science, history, architecture, music or cinema will be able to see the important contributions that Europe has made in all these fields, without even leaving their home.
The book-lover from Bulgaria who can gaze at illuminated manuscripts from medieval Irish monasteries - without travelling to Dublin;
The music-lover from Malta who can study the original score of Mozart's Requiem – written in the composer's own hand;
The art-lover from Austria who can compare works by a favourite artist side-by-side – even though they are scattered across many galleries in several Member States.
But don't be fooled by the fast and easy access that Europeana provides to our continent's rich cultural heritage. Behind this door lies an incredible amount of hard work.
Thanks to Commission funding, co-ordination from the European Digital Library Foundation, and the hosting of Europeana by the Dutch Koninklijke Bibliotheek [co-ninklucker biblio-take] more than 1,000 libraries, archives and museums have already started bringing Europe's cultural heritage online.
But more needs to be done. Despite this impressive start, only 1% of archival material is available in digital form.
Which brings me to another important role that Europeana must play: preservation of Europe's cultural heritage for future generations.
Ancient and rare manuscripts are not very accessible for good reason: they are susceptible to wear and tear, and the ravages of time. Digital versions of old works not only reach a much wider audience without causing any risk to the original copy, they also guarantee their survival.
But several Member States still lack methods, technologies and experience for the creation and preservation of digital material. And more needs to be done to implement common standards to make different information sources and databases compatible for Europeana.
So the Commission will continue to support this project, and digitisation in general. Over the next two years, €69 million will be available for research on digital libraries, and another €50 million will help improve access to Europe's cultural and scientific heritage.
Europeana itself will receive €2 million a year from the Commission in 2009-11, with Member States, cultural institutions and the private sector gradually increasing their share of funding as the project develops.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In a letter written in 1500 to his friend Jacob Batt, the great humanist Erasmus said that as soon as he got some money, he would buy books; he would buy clothes with any money left over.
Today, thanks to Europeana, lovers of art, culture, and knowledge no longer have to make such a difficult choice! So let me end by wishing this project every success for the future.