Cultural Heritage Policy in the European Union


Written by Anne Vernet and Jonathan Gunson


The European Commission defines cultural heritage as including “natural, built and archaeological sites; museums; monuments, artworks; historic cities; literary, musical, and audiovisual works, and the knowledge, practices and traditions of European citizens”. Whilst the Member States are principally responsible for their own cultural heritage policy, European cultural heritage benefits from a range of supportive measures (policies, programmes and funding) aimed at preserving (art. 3 TEU) and promoting it (art 167 TFEU).


European cultural heritage is of exceptional economic importance for the tourism industry, generating an estimated annual revenue of EUR 335 billion, and many of the 9 million jobs in the tourism sector are linked to it directly or indirectly. The EU funded project Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe aims to raise greater awareness on the social, economic, cultural as well as environmental impact of cultural heritage and the multiple benefits of investing in it. In 2007-13, €3.2 billion was invested in heritage from the European Regional Development Fund; a further €1.2 billion on rural heritage from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and around €100 million worth of heritage research was funded from the 7th Framework Programme. Funding for 2014-2020 will be available to support conservation, digitisation, infrastructure, research and skills.


In July 2014 the European Commission published Towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage for Europe, a communication aiming to help Member States and stakeholders to make the most of the significant support for heritage available under EU instruments, progress towards a more integrated approach at national and EU level. On 2 December 2014 the EP Commission for Culture and Education held a public hearing on “An integrated approach to cultural heritage in Europe: State of play and perspectives” (presentations will be available here; see also Europa Nostra’s summary of the hearing). MEP Mircea Diaconu is drafting a report on the subject (procedure file: 2014/2149(INI)).


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