Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe Concluding Conference
12 June 2015 at the University of Oslo in Norway

Address by Ingvild Stub, State Secretary, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to attendees during the opening session.


Ingvild Stub, State Secretary, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, speaking at the Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe concluding conference in Oslo on 12 June 2015.

Commissioner Navracsics,
Minister Prévot,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to welcome you to Oslo on behalf of the Norwegian Government, and to welcome you to this conference where Europa Nostra and its partners present the results of intensive European Union funded cooperation. In my view the report (Cultural Counts for Europe) is an important building block for enhanced policy on and developing cultural heritage management across Europe. I’d like to thank you for choosing Norway as the venue for this important event.

How very fitting it is, that this milestone report is presented here in the Aula of the recently restored Domus Media, with its long history, firmly rooted in Norway’s heritage. As you have no doubt noticed, you are surrounded by eleven paintings by Edvard Munch. These are an important part of our cultural heritage. They are intended – as the artist put it himself – ‘to form a complete, independent world of ideas’. Munch wanted them to be distinctively Norwegian and universally human. I’m sure you will agree that he succeeded in this. These works were finished as the First World War was raging across Europe. Against this backdrop it is interesting to note that Munch chose to convey a brighter view of history and humanity, and to use the rays of the sun to symbolise the hope of human enlightenment.

Norway and the European Union

Norway is not member of the EU, but we are very much a part of Europe through our participation in the European Economic Area, or the EEA. We also contribute to reducing social and economic disparities through the EEA and Norway Grants, which are used to fund programmes and projects in sixteen EU Member States.

EEA and Norway Grants

Culture is one of our priority sectors. We fund cultural heritage and cultural cooperation activities in fourteen countries, with a total budget of €204 million Euros for a period of five years. We aim for sustainability by stimulating capacity development and awareness raising in restoration, conservation, and reuse of cultural heritage, and through meaningful bilateral partnerships that pave the way for future cooperation. When it comes to cultural heritage, I do not want to mince my words: in my view cultural heritage is not about ‘a crumbling ancient past’.

  • It is about ‘a fresh and realistic present’,
  • it is about ‘managing heritage in order to grasp opportunities’,
  • it is about ‘innovative and locally anchored ways to merge the past with the future’.

Views on the Report

I am pleased to see that the report looks at the effects that investments in this sector have on local development, employment, skills development, social inclusion and mutual understanding, as well as on maximising impact. These are aims shared by Norway. We also share the report’s view that strategic cultural heritage management is required at all levels of government. This is already embedded in Norway’s approach to cultural heritage, which includes the goal that all Norway’s municipalities will have drawn up plans for the conservation of their monuments and other cultural heritage sites by 2020. And through the EEA and Norway Grants, we support projects that conserve local cultural heritage, increase local people’s skills, and improve services for cultural tourism.

Most importantly, as the report stresses, a holistic and integrated approach is essential for the best possible management of cultural heritage. This was the approach taken when shaping the current funding period of the EEA and Norway Grants. While this strategic aim proved challenging to implement in some cases, an integrated approach has produced good results in others.

We support a range of efforts, from large-scale awareness-raising projects to smaller projects aimed at building mutual understanding between different communities with focus on their shared heritage. Let me give you some examples:

  • Our support to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw raises awareness of minority issues and promotes understanding and tolerance.
  • The development of the new Centre for Visual Arts and Research close to the buffer zone in Nicosia has enhanced dialogue between the Turk-Cypriot and the Greek-Cypriot communities.
  • 45 % of the current projects are being carried out in cooperation with partners from Iceland, Liechtenstein and/or Norway, which increases the capacity of the beneficiary and the donor countries to work internationally.
  • The restoration of the historical Rezekne Green Synagogue in Latvia is bringing together pupils from Norway and Latvia. The project merges these nations’ expertise in the care of Latvia’s wooden buildings, and is paving the way for meaningful bilateral cooperation for the future. It also increases young people’s skills and thus helps to bridge the gap between school and work.
  • We are very pleased that the excellent quality of some of our projects have been recognised by the European Prize for Cultural Heritage, the Europa Nostra Awards.
  • Last year, the Atjaro (Passage) Project in Hungary won the Grand Prix 2014; and the Home for Cooperation project in Cyprus and the Route of Torres Vedras in Portugal won the Conservation category in 2014.

We are currently looking at how our cultural heritage and cultural cooperation programmes are progressing. While good progress is being made, we note that the focus in several projects is mainly on restoration and conservation. These projects do not always take into account the broader management aspects related to heritage’s surroundings and its instrumental value. We will put more emphasis on this aspect in future programmes. 

Concluding remarks

The report presented here today provides building blocks for increasing the impact of cultural heritage policy. There are significant opportunities if we use our heritage resources strategically. Returning to Edvard Munch and the bright outlook of these paintings, we should remember that the development of cultural heritage can play an important part in meeting the current challenges in Europe today – helping to create growth and job opportunities. I can assure you that Norway will take careful note of the report, and will take the outcome of the discussions here today into account in future policy.

Thank you for your attention!


This speech was originally published here.