The European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education held a public hearing on “An integrated approach to cultural heritage in Europe: State of play and perspectives” which took place on 2 December 2014 in Brussels. The hearing focused on the current state of play, the challenges faced and the steps to be taken in order to tap into the potential of cultural heritage for social progress and sustainable economic development.

The thematic presentations made by experts set the stage for the discussion with the members of the Committee on Culture and Education. Bénédicte Selfslagh, Deputy Chair of Belgium Committee ICOMOS, spoke about the challenges and opportunities for cultural heritage and the role of Member States, European institutions and international organisations. Aled Gruffyd Jones, Librarian of the National Library of Wales, explored the topic of documentary heritage. Jacek Purchla, Director of the International Cultural Centre in Krakow and partner of the Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe project, highlighted the role of cities and the value of the historic urban landscape. Sergiu Nistor, Professor at the University of Architecture and Urbanism of Bucharest, addressed the need for new models of participatory governance.

It would be great if our cultural heritage experts could also be listened to by Ministers of Finance, or even Prime-Ministers, then maybe the overall result would be much more effective. It is very important to make sure that such voices are also heard in circles not related to culture and which often disregard culture,” advocated Bogdan Andrzej Zdrojewski, an MEP from Poland.

This position was endorsed by other MEPs and participants in the meeting. Several parliamentarians expressed their support for the proposal of organising a European Year of Cultural Heritage, which was made by the EU Council to the European Commission in their Conclusions on participatory governance of cultural heritage adopted on 25 November 2014.

Catherine Magnant, Deputy Head of Unit in the DG EAC of the European Commission, congratulated the EU Council on the adoption of the Conclusions on participatory governance for cultural heritage. “The Commission is committed to encouraging the Member States to engage in the coordination for its implementation,” she stated.

Cultural heritage has a significant social and economic value, which is not easy to quantify. We all need to make some progress on that front. We look forward to learning about the final results of the European project Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe, which is financed by the Culture programme and led by Europa Nostra. It already has some concrete findings, particularly in the area of cultural tourism,” added the Deputy Head of Unit in the DG EAC of the European Commission.