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    The ECHY 2018 as a Project of European Cohesion

    11/3/16 | 9:03 AM | Photo: Felix Quaedvlieg for Europa Nostra

    The European monument preservation society Europa Nostra represents the interests of more than 400 NGOs and natural persons from the sphere of monument preservation. With its more than 50 years of experience, the society has built an extensive network, which functions as an important link in the international effort to preserve cultural heritage. Europa Nostra will hold its council meeting at denkmal 2016. One segment of that meeting will be open to the public and deal with the preparations for the European Cultural Heritage Year 2018. In our interview, the secretary general of Europa Nostra, Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, explains how the society functions and what denkmal as a platform means for the preservation of historic monuments.

    Editor: Which role does Europa Nostra play for the protection of cultural heritage in Europe?

    Quaedvlieg-Mihailović: Our “raison d’être” is to give shape and voice to an ever-growing citizens’ movement in favour of cultural and natural heritage across Europe. Our main task is to be forceful advocates of heritage – with its multiple benefits for our economy, society, culture and environment – towards policy-makers at all levels of governance: local, regional, national and especially European. We also seek to actively contribute to a global mobilisation for heritage, especially through our close relations with UNESCO. For the last 40 years we have identified, recognised and encouraged outstanding heritage achievements in all parts of Europe. And of course, we campaign to save Europe’s most endangered heritage sites in support of action led on the ground by our member organisations.

    As a pan-European network of civil society organisations committed to heritage, Europa Nostra is both mission-driven and member-driven. Our Council members (60 in total) are allworking for the cause of cultural heritage, as professionals or as volunteers. Finally, we have a very committed Board supported by a small but very effective staff based in The Hague and in Brussels who runs our programmes and coordinates our activities.

    Editor: Which are your flagship programmes?

    Quaedvlieg-Mihailović: We are especially proud of our annual awards scheme, since 2002 run in partnership with the European Union. The EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards are given to best achievements related to heritage conservation, research, education, training and awareness-raising. Following an impressive European Award-giving ceremony held last May at the Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid, last August, I had the immense pleasure of attending the local award ceremony in the “stone village” of Gostuša in my native country Serbia, to celebrate an outstanding research project aimed at revitalising this exceptional rural settlement. It was the first Grand Prix ever to be given to Serbia and it now serves as a positive example to be followed by others in the wider region of the Western Balkans. One week later, I travelled to the stunningly beautiful World Heritage Geiranger Fjord in the West of Norway to pay tribute to 40 years of dedicated service to heritage by volunteers of the Society of the Friends of Størfjorden. These moving heritage encounters in different parts of Europe prove that our award winners are the best ambassadors of our mission and of our values. Since 2002, we have selected and honoured more than 400 highly deserving laureates. Among them, of course, outstanding winners from Germany, such as the spectacular Neues Museum Berlin - one of my favourites - , which received a Grand Prix in 2010 or the Rundling Association, one of our Grand Prix winners in 2015 for their dedicated service to heritage. During the 25 years of my work for Europa Nostra, I had the privilege of discovering so many exceptional “heritage success stories” which were made possible thanks to the tireless commitment of so many professionals and volunteers, often with wide community support.

    But heritage is also facing many threats whether they are caused by men or by nature. We are therefore committed to supporting campaigns for saving Europe’s endangered heritage. Since 2013, together with the European Investment Bank Institute based in Luxembourg, we are running the “7 Most Endangered” programme. Every two years, the most threatened heritage sites in Europe are selected, from the Buffer Zone in the historic centre of Nicosia (Cyprus) to the Modernist still functioning Malmi airport in Helsinki (Finland), from the historic bells in Mafra (Portugal) to the historic mining landscape of Rosia Montana (Romania). For each selected sites, our members and experts take on the arduous task of encouraging and rallying public and private support for ensuring a sustainable future for the selected sites. This requires a combination of political determination, sound “business case and plan”, strong public awareness and support as well as the necessary financial resources.

    Editor: What importance does the ECHY 2018 have for the protection of monuments and what are Europa Nostra's plans for that year?

    Quaedvlieg-Mihailović: The European Year of Cultural Heritage provides us a unique opportunity to demonstrate that “Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe”. At the time when the European Union is faced with unprecedented political, economic, social and ethical challenges and changes, this Year also offers us a formidable chance to convey a positive and cohesive message for Europe and its citizens.

    Today, many tend to forget that Europe is first and foremost what we have in common and what brings us together. Cultural heritage constitutes that invaluable fabric which keeps Europe together, from Norway to Greece and from Poland to Spain. Understanding that Europe has a shared cultural heritage helps us grasp the full beauty and the profound meaning of the European project but also helps us understand how complex and fragile it is. Together with our important partner, DNK from Germany, and other public and private bodies from all over Europe, we have therefore proposed a strong and positive motto for the Year: “Sharing Heritage”! This motto will be highly visible during our Congress 2018, which will take place in Berlin, in close cooperation with Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz. We are confident that this “European Heritage Summit” will be one of the public highlights of the entire Year.

    Europa Nostra will offer to the EU Institutions and Member States to serve as the bridge between their own vital action and the activities, which will be organised by civil society organisations all over Europe. As a European network, Europa Nostra has the advantage of “seeing this bigger picture” and this should be our role for the European Year: ensuring that both the “European dimension” and also the “citizens’ dimension” is put at the heart of cultural heritage activities across Europe in 2018 and beyond. Our large network is indeed our biggest resource. We shall therefore work closely with our members to make a meaningful contribution to this Year. Our members and former award winners are already coming up with creative ideas for events or activities for 2018, many of which shall start already in 2017 and continue beyond 2018. As coordinator of the European Heritage Alliance 3.3, we shall also seek to ensure proper connections and synergies between Europa Nostra’s activities and other European networks active in the heritage field.

    But this Year is not an aim in itself and it should not end on 31/12/2018. It should rather mark the launch of a renewed and prolonged period of a much stronger and much more coherent commitment of all public and private stakeholders in favour of cultural heritage as a vital resource for ensuring a sustainable and peaceful future not only for Europe but also for its partners all over the world.

    Editor: Which importance does the denkmal play for Europa Nostra?

    Quaedvlieg-Mihailović: The denkmal serves as a valuable platform for much needed encounters and interaction between heritage-related professionals and businesses. As such, denkmal has become a forceful advocate of the present-day economic and social relevance of heritage. We also applaud the denkmal’s ambition to become a truly European fair organised in the heart of Europe, the beautiful historic city of Leipzig. Finally, we welcome the determination of the denkmal’s leadership to actively promote the European Year of Cultural Heritage, also during the forthcoming Fair 2016 and even more during the denkmal 2018. For all these reasons we have gladly accepted the invitation made to us by the Leipziger Messe, to hold the next meeting of our Board and Council in conjunction with the denkmal in Leipzig. This will help us further expand our network and visibility. It will also allow our members to take part in the public debate dedicated to the European Year organised in cooperation with DNK, and to network with exhibitors and visitors of the fair. We are also delighted that members of the European Heritage Alliance 3.3. will meet on 9 November in Leipzig, on the eve of the opening of the denkmal, which means that representatives of other key European heritage networks will join us in Leipzig. Last but not least, I am grateful for the honour to be this year’s keynote speaker during the opening night of the denkmal! All in all, I am convinced that the dynamic entrepreneurial and creative ambiance of your Fair will be very inspirational for our debates and for the fruitful preparations for the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018!

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