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New European cultural heritage platform in 2011

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In 2011 there will be a new European cultural heritage platform intended to enable greater collaboration with all interested parties in Europe. After all, up until now, the heritage sector has lacked sufficient organisation at the European level. This was expressed in the ‘Bruges Declaration' that Flemish Minister for Immovable Heritage Geert Bourgeois presented at the close of a conference on the added value of cultural heritage.

"Cultural heritage plays an important role in the development of a unified yet diverse European identity", according to Minister Bourgeois. "That is why it is important to provide better support for our common cultural heritage and to more effectively place it on the European map."

European cultural heritage platform
Cultural heritage is not only important for national and regional governments. "That is why we are asking for the cooperation of all interested parties, such as the Council of Europe, civil society involved in cultural heritage and professionals as well as the European Parliament and the European Commission", says Bourgeois.
In 2011 an international think tank will be created in order to prepare for establishing a European cultural heritage platform. This cultural heritage platform should ensure greater collaboration between all parties involved in Europe.
The international think tank is being established in collaboration with the upcoming presidencies of Hungary and Poland. France, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and Norway are also interested in working on the project.

Cultural heritage conference
At the conference ‘cultural heritage: an added value for Europe' on 9 December the importance of cultural heritage and the major challenges related to it were discussed from a European perspective. The speakers included Claire Giraud-Lakalte (French Ministry for Culture and Communication), Simon Thurley (English Heritage) and Alison Crabb (European Commission, DG Culture, Education and Training).

In the afternoon, the speakers explored in-depth a number of potential strategies for better incorporating the interests of cultural heritage into the EU-policy. Prof. Jan Beyers (University of Antwerp) demonstrated the way that interest groups in other sectors work and how this could offer a potential model. Hubert David (Chairman European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils) presented the strategies that the environmental sector has used to place its interests on the EU-agenda. Liesl Vanautgaerden made an interesting presentation on the prospects offered by territorial cohesion for an integrated policy that encompasses cultural heritage, and specifically landscapes.

At the roundtable discussion, a number of leading actors debated the vision for the future.

Cultural heritage in Europe
The term cultural heritage can have many meanings. Cultural heritage is not only a question of monuments, historical cities, museums and collections. Cultural heritage is also traditions and customs, and natural and cultural landscapes.
These highly diverse forms of cultural heritage overlap with other sectors such as agriculture, town and country planning, media, research, the environment and tourism. This means that the European policy in numerous other sectors can have direct or indirect consequences for cultural heritage.
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