On this landmark Europe Day when we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, and the launch of the process of European integration;
At a time when Europe and the entire planet are struggling to overcome an unprecedented crisis caused by the COVID-19 virus and when we have to define robust policies to reset and rebuild our societies and economies;
Having in mind that the vast world of culture and cultural heritage has been heavily and particularly affected by the pandemic, with serious cultural, social, and economic implications for heritage professionals and volunteers;
Impressed by the exceptional efforts made by culture and heritage actors to keep people’s spirits up by sharing access to an extraordinarily rich offer of cultural content;
We, representatives of the vast heritage community active across Europe have gathered under the banner of the European Heritage Alliance, to convey a strong message of solidarity, hope, and unity to Europe’s leaders and citizens. We are ready to contribute to Europe’s immediate social and economic recovery, as well as to the longer-term advancement of the European project;
Inspired by the vision and audacity of Robert Schuman and his peers, 70 years ago, we strongly believe that we must seize the current crisis to put culture and cultural heritage where they belong: at the very heart of Europe’s revival;
As demonstrated during the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018, there are many ways in which cultural heritage can act as a catalyst for positive change.
In this Manifesto, we highlight 7 interconnected ways in which this is the case:
1) HEALING EUROPE
In times of health emergencies, cultural heritage plays, and will continue to play, an essential role for the physical and mental wellbeing of every individual and of our societies as a whole. As evidenced by a rich body of literature and increasingly recognised in public decision-making, wellbeing is a holistic concept which encompasses emotional, social, cultural, spiritual and economic needs, which allow individuals to realise their full potential and engage in society to their fullest capacity. Therefore, investing in cultural heritage means investing in public health, wellbeing, and improving the quality of people’s lives.
2) BEING EUROPE
At a time when the whole world is facing a profound transformation of our way of life, our shared cultural heritage and values constitute a much-needed anchor and compass. They can indeed provide a sense of direction and inspiration to make the right choices ahead of us. Cultural heritage ensures the link between our roots, identities, and traditions and the wider European and global picture. Participation in, and engagement with, cultural heritage also enables us to embrace our diversity and to use it as a source of enrichment and creativity. How European citizens feel and understand their shared heritage, and how this process of heritage interpretation is facilitated, is critical for the future of Europe. This is why greater investment in culture, education, science, and innovation must be at the heart of the promotion of our European way of life - in its full diversity. This is also why in the future, a “European Union of Shared Values” must be as important as Europe’s economic, monetary, or political union.
3) DIGITALLY TRANSFORMING EUROPE
The COVID-19 outbreak has underlined the critical importance of digital access to cultural heritage. At a time when people seek to remain closer together while staying physically apart, cultural heritage organisations across Europe have risen to the challenge. Europe already plays a leading role in digital cultural heritage and has the potential to forge ahead with new technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning based on humanistic and ethical principles. Now we must work together to accelerate and further improve this digital transformation. At the same time, we must narrow the divide between institutions that are digitally equipped, and those that are not. We need to democratise access to our heritage to support diversity, inclusivity, creativity, and critical engagement in education and knowledge sharing. We need to promote collaborations and experimentations that strengthen our capacity for innovation. And we need to promote the use of digital technology and expertise, to strengthen our cultural institutions’ role in telling our European stories.
4) GREENING EUROPE
While the European Union is working on its historic “European Green Deal”, we must ensure that the cultural dimension of the green transformation of our society and economy is fully taken on board. Our cultural heritage, including cultural landscapes, are severely threatened by climate change. But the cultural world, with its wealth of traditional knowledge and skills, can also be used to further expand on mitigation and adaptation practices which can help achieve the ambitious objectives of the European Green Deal. We strongly support calls for a ‘green recovery’ of Europe after the pandemic and are convinced of the immense potential of cultural heritage to help achieve it.
5) REGENERATING EUROPE
The now landmark study Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe provides robust evidence of the clear benefits of heritage investment for the regeneration of cities and regions, both on individual and community levels. Given the prospect of dramatic job losses, we urge EU leaders to invest in heritage-led regeneration of urban and rural areas, enabling and amplifying Europe’s social and economic recovery. In this way, Europe will not only preserve many existing jobs and related skills but also create new rewarding jobs, ranging from specialised crafts to the sophisticated use of digital and other new technologies. Such a “New Deal for Cultural Heritage” will in turn drive social and economic innovation, and contribute to a major improvement of our living environment. The huge potential of heritage-led regeneration in historic cities, villages and the countryside across Europe can indeed become a real 'game-changer' towards a greener and more sustainable Europe.
6) EXPERIENCING EUROPE
Faced with the catastrophic impact of the pandemic on the tourism industry due to travel and mobility limitations, which puts 13 million European jobs at risk, we fully support the appeal for a major “EU tourism rescue plan”. This plan should include special measures for the revival of cultural tourism, one of the largest and fastest growing tourism segments worldwide which accounts for 40% of all European tourism. Tourism needs cultural heritage and cultural heritage needs tourism. But we recover from this crisis by using it as an opportunity to promote more innovative and sustainable forms of tourism. In doing so, we will deliver lasting benefits for public and private owners of heritage sites and the communities that surround them, generating higher quality experiences and greater enjoyment for visitors.
7) EMBRACING THE WORLD
Finally, as the current crisis has shown, the clear interconnection and fragility of humanity provides Europe with a unique opportunity to enhance its positive and constructive role in the world. Culture and cultural heritage are key drivers for enhancing respect, understanding, and trust as the prerequisites for the global solidarity and cooperation. Europe should thereby use its rich cultural resources to champion this process.
In light of the above, we need to urgently and collectively mobilise the transformational power of culture and cultural heritage to provide meaning and inspiration for Europe’s green and inclusive recovery in the aftermath of the pandemic. TOGETHER, we can deploy their full potential for a better future for Our Europe.