Cultural heritage is our reference point to the past. It helps us to understand our histories and the ancestry that binds us together.
But our heritage is also an integral part of our present, and of our future.
An understanding of our common heritage, based on the intercultural meetings and cross-fertilisations that have taken place in Europe over centuries contributes to our common well-being. It offers an insight into today's diverse societies and shows us what can be achieved when cultures meet and inspire each other.
In addition, our culture and heritage have an important role to play when it comes to building a more economically sustainable and cohesive Union. The role cultural heritage plays for economic and social development is being more and more considered in local and regional development.
Furthermore, the Europe 2020 strategy aims at tapping into Europe's potential for innovation to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Culture and cultural heritage have a clear role to play in at least four of the Europe 2020 flagship initiatives: innovation union, the digital agenda, an industrial policy for the globalisation era and an agenda for new skills and jobs.
Never before has cultural heritage been dealt with so prominently in an EU-treaty as in the Lisbon Treaty . As said in Article 3.3. TEU “(…) The Union shall respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and shall ensure that Europe’s cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced”.
For the European Union the preservation of cultural heritage is of high importance. Therefore, the European Commission actively promotes these principles within the framework for cooperation on culture policy and implementation of different concrete actions.
However, the European Union does not have a specific competence in this field. According to article 167 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the Union should be "encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if necessary, supporting and supplementing their action" in the field of culture. The EU does not have decision making power in the cultural heritage policy.
The upkeep, protection, conservation and renovation of cultural heritage are primarily a national responsibility. Therefore, the Union's action is complementary to national or regional action. Contrariwise, other EU policies can have direct or indirect impact on cultural heritage sector. The Commission works to ensure that the protection and promotion of cultural heritage is given due consideration in other sectors such as regional planning, agriculture, economy, research, environment, etc.