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

Address by Maxime Prévot, Vice-President and Minister of Wallonia’s Government, Chairman of the 6th Council of Europe Ministerial Conference for Heritage to attendees during the opening session.


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Maxime Prévot, Vice-President and Minister of Wallonia’s Government, Chairman of the 6th Council of Europe Ministerial Conference for Heritage speaking at the Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe concluding conference.

Maxime Prévot, Vice-President and Minister of Wallonia’s Government, Chairman of the 6th Council of Europe Ministerial Conference for Heritage speaking at the Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe concluding conference.

Mister European Commissioner,
Madame State Secretary,
Mister President,
Madame General Secretary,
Ladies and gentlemen,

When Madame Sneska Quadvleig-Mihailovic spoke to intervene at the first work session of the 6th conference of the council of Europe of the Ministers of heritage that took place at Namur on the 23rd and the 24th of April, a wave of freshness and enthusiasm invaded the conference room. As a defendant of heritage she expressed several times in the name of civil society, which Europa Nostra, with other associations, represents on international level. I therefore have the pleasure to note that this conference, held in the context of the Belgian chairmanship of the Council of Europe, answered a real need, a shared expectation, by the States and their administrations as well as the professionals, the intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations.  If I am here today it’s because it seems evident, to the multiple actors of heritage that we had to move to a higher stage of their reflection according to politics of the management of heritage.  It’s not enough to talk about new tools for the past but we have to put those new tools into a real strategy for heritage. A couple months’ ago, a group of experts, such as Europa Nostra, got together under the auspices of Wallonia, the French speaking region of Belgium, in which I am Vice-President and Minister of Heritage, to identify the most pertinent way to respond to the need in which the framework was not clear yet.  Playing a major part, the Walloon administration, in perfect cooperation with the administrations of other regions in Belgium and the Council of Europe, particularly through the network of Herein, progressively traced the priority axes that should be a strong strategy for heritage in Europe.

Indeed, the Conference of Namur had the principal objective, to make the contracting state parties of the European cultural convention agree on the necessity to identify the key objectives of this strategy. The world and Europe have changed over the last few years and this realisation operates on a climatic as well as a demographic level.  These changes are accompanied by a number of political, social and economic crisis’s which have a tendency to weaken our societies. In the seventies, heritage came to the front of the stage after the destruction during the two wars and campaigns, sometimes even destructive for heritage, and as we reconstruct, we recognize progressively  its importance as a structured element of our identity. The perception of the role of heritage then evolved, going from a set of objects of great value to protect to the realization that cultural heritage is a unique source, fragile, non-renewable and non-relocatable, contributing to the attractiveness and development of the territories and the wellbeing of the population. The framework-convention of Faro put humanity back in the heart of heritage, making it come down from its pedestal and finally permitting a real appropriation, for mankind, of his built and natural environment.  The strategy, in which the construction has been confided in the European States at the Council of Europe, registers in the straight line of this evolution, and wishes a concrete, operational, concerted and shared application of the texts and tools that are based on cultural heritage.

I’m not going to resume here the Declaration of Namur but we have to recognize that the results of the study that are the objects of the presentation and debates to follow, confirm and complete the work from less than a month ago.  I’m happy to see that the preoccupations of the European Union join those of the Council of Europe. The 4 axes around which the strategy of heritage will articulate are confirmed by the principal conclusions of the study and, without revealing what will be presented to you, I’m happy to know that by identifying the priority axes in Namur we saw:

  • First, the contribution of heritage as a big issue for the improvement of the frame and quality of life of European citizens,
  • Secondly the contribution of heritage as a way for enhancing the attractiveness and prosperity of Europe, based on the expression of its identities and its cultural diversities.
  • We also stressed the importance of education and training for a lifetime,
  • And finally the particular governance in the domain of heritage.

At the last Director Committee Culture, Heritage, Landscape (CDCPP) of the Council of Europe, the different states confirmed the mission that has been confided to them: the countries of the Council of Europe have to develop, by the end of 2016, a coherent and integrated dispositive that will allow respect of the differences of perception of Heritage and certain problems faced by different States and actors. About that, the project Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe is a remarkable example of what could be an inclusive management of Heritage in association with experts, associations, international institutions and administrations.

Before concluding my speech, I’d like to put the light on two specific issues witch concern all the public authorities, from the local one to the European community :

  • First, Heritage and Citizenship: one of my battle horses is to improve the efficiency of participatory management dispositive of cultural heritage.  In this complex institutional complex, just like the one in Belgium, it’s indispensable to work on a clarification of the dispositive, so that we can improve the management of cultural heritage and that we can promote good governance and favour participative management.
  • Secondly, Heritage and the Economy: which are  clearly the heart of this Congress and for my part, I have to face some serious budgetary restrictions. This imposes to prove our creativity for the perception of heritage as well as for the funding of its needs. As non-locatable resources, heritage is a potential source of employment and wealth but its use has to be well framed so that we can avoid that adverse mechanisms like social dumping to have an opposite effect on the one looked for.  Nevertheless, it seems that heritage can generate a larger public then the limited circle of insiders and could be a source of wealth.

The project Cultural Heritage counts for Europe constitutes, from my point of view, a remarkable opportunity that could be integrated management of heritage.

I’ll conclude this intervention by thanking again Europa Nostra, its president, and its general secretary, Madame Quadvleig-Mihailovic, for their invitation to this congress.  It’s an opportunity to insist even more on the necessity to place cultural heritage at the centre of the preoccupations of the states and the citizens and to recall that its protection is not a luxury but a duty that strongly reminds us of the voluntary destruction we witness still today and that the Call of Namur needs to be denounced with force.

So, as we said yesterday all together: We need to be UNITED FOR HERITAGE