Between funding and peace-building, cultural heritage is back on the EU agenda

January 29, 2021, 10:57 am

Cultural heritage is back in the European spotlight this week. Both the Parliament and the Commission held votes and open debates on the subject, including funding schemes for cultural heritage, and its role for peace and security.

New and old challenges lay ahead for funding opportunities for cultural heritage within the European Union. A two-day workshop dedicated to complementary funding for cultural heritage took place on 25-26 January, hosted by the European Commission as part of the activities of the Cultural Heritage High-Level Expert Group. 

Part of the Work Plan for Culture 2019-22, the workshop aimed at identifying new sources of funding for cultural heritage and transferable best practices in order to promote its sustainability, also following the recommendation by the European Court of Auditors, that recently encouraged to “use private funds to safeguard Europe’s cultural heritage.” 

During the workshop, the importance of  European philanthropy to safeguard cultural heritage by enabling a legal and fiscal framework to develop new forms of public-philanthropic partnership was highlighted. The foundations’ sector in Europe amounts to an annual €60 billion budget and significantly supports culture. The #CulturalDealEU overarching framework jointly developed by Culture Action Europe, the European Cultural Foundation and Europa Nostra (also in its capacity as coordinator of the European Heritage Alliance) includes a call on the EU institutions to include the philanthropic sector in the design and imagination of the future of Europe through culture. 

After overwhelmingly voting in favour of the resolution on achieving an effective policy legacy for the European Year of Cultural Heritage (EYCH) during its last plenary meeting, the European Parliament had cultural heritage back on its agenda. 

On Wednesday 27 January, the European Parliament hosted a joint meeting of the sub-committee on Security and Defence (SEDEC) and the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT), which came together to discuss the question of preserving cultural heritage in conflict areas as a vector for peace and security. 

A few weeks after the international conference hosted by the EU on “The role of the EU on the protection and enhancement of cultural heritage in conflict and crisis”, EU officials echoed the words of the High Representative for foreign affairs and security policy Josep Borrell, according to whom “cultural heritage is part of the EU’s peace process and security strategy.”

The meeting between sub-committees was to highlight the challenges ahead for cultural heritage in the wake of the pandemic and looked into strategies to safeguard both tangible and intangible heritage in conflict areas, as a vector for peace, security, and reconciliation. 

The interventions largely revolved around countries in war zones – from Afghanistan to the most recent conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region -, quoting good practices such as those implemented in Iraq, and attempting to identify possible strategies to mobilize civil society through cultural heritage preservation.

MEPs called on the Commission and the Member States to ensure adequate and focused financial support to mitigate the crisis in the cultural sectors and to assist cultural workers, including those in the frontline dealing with cultural heritage, in adjusting to the digital transformation.

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