On May 19 2011 EU Ministers responsible for Culture and Audiovisual Affairs, at their meeting in Brussels, reached a political agreement on raising the European Heritage Label to an EU level.
In 2006 France proposed to establish the European Heritage Label and a list of awarded sites, on the model of UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage List. In 2007 various European countries launched the proposal as an intergovernmental initiative. It aims to “strengthen the support of European citizens for a shared European identity and to foster a sense of belonging to a common cultural space”. In 2008, the EU Council called on the Commission to draft a proposal to transform the European Heritage Label into an official EU initiative in order to make the label more visible and effective. The Commission has launched an impact study – including a public consultation – to assess whether the EU should get involved and whether it can provide an added value to the European Heritage Label. Today, thanks to this label, a number of sites will be awarded on the basis of their European symbolic value and educational work rather than on their architectural qualities or beauty. Following this agreement, a formal decision establishing the Label should be adopted by the Council in July and by the Parliament the second half of 2011. In order to set up the Label a preparatory work will be carried out in the next 18 months and the first selection procedure will take place in 2013. From 2015, selections will take place every two years. Moreover, the 68 sites which received the Label under the previous scheme will be able to apply for the new EU Label. In this first selection procedure, Member States will be able to nominate four sites to receive the award. Independent experts will assess the nominations and select which should be designated with the Label. Member States will be able to nominate up to two sites each time and the experts will select a maximum of one site in each country. This initiative is placed in the framework of the EU Culture programme.
Ms Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: “Our aim, through this Label, is to give European citizens, especially young people, new opportunities to learn about our common yet diverse cultural heritage, and about our common history. I am convinced that it will help European citizens understand the European Union and its benefits better. I am also sure that the Label will help to increase cultural tourism, and bring many economic benefits. I congratulate the Council and European Parliament on their constructive discussions.”