Prague, 8 October 2019

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Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to be here today in this Refectory of the Dominican Monastery. It is fitting that today’s event is taking place in such an excellent example of cultural heritage, dating back to the 17th century. It illustrates well the concept of reusing cultural space – here, in the midst of a fully functioning monastery.

What is the future of cultural heritage in a world that is rapidly changing, where technological advancements are our every-day reality?

I believe that joining culture with technology is the key. We need to use new digital tools with creativity and confidence if we want to harness the potential of culture to the full. This is vital to boost employment, foster novel business activities and enhance innovation. It is key for our communities to build on their strengths and create a shared sense of belonging.

I am very proud that the European Commission is supporting this. Just today, we have launched the second edition of the Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor. This tool was developed by the Joint Research Centre, our science and knowledge service, and first presented in 2017. The new, extended edition does even more to benchmark and boost the creative and cultural potential of European cities. It presents an updated portrait of Europe's cultural and creative richness in an extended sample of 190 cities in 30 countries.

Culture is an important asset for cities, helping to drive job creation and social development – while improving citizens’ quality of life and sense of identity. The Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor is already inspiring local policy-makers across Europe to make this most of this asset, and I am sure the new edition will be even more useful to them. It is one of the more than 60 actions I presented last December that are designed to help ensure that the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage has a lasting impact.

This Platform is another of those initiatives. Through the European Year, we aimed to encourage Europeans to discover, enjoy, preserve and engage with our cultural heritage. This clearly has a digital dimension.

Digital technologies impact every aspect of our daily lives. They offer excellent opportunities to improve access to cultural heritage assets and to allow their curation and re-use. That is why we have for instance developed the Community of Innovators in Cultural Heritage which bridges the gap between research, market and society.

The discussions today are a further step in taking our work in this area forward. Within the three working groups, you discussed case studies, methods, new research and solutions. You have shared experiences, ideas and concepts. Today, you have explored new pathways for the future, focusing on how we can promote and protect both the tangible and intangible cultural heritage, support the new developing tech industries in cultural heritage, reach out to citizens and improve audience engagement through technology. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

I know the time and effort you, as professionals, have invested in your days here. Thank you for your input and your willingness to share your ideas, research and knowledge. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Director of the National Library, Dr Martin Kocanda, and his staff for their support, hospitality and generosity in providing the venues for the working groups of this Platform. My thanks also go to staff of Brothers Consulting and the Dominican Monastery for their help and assistance and for letting us use this exquisite Baroque style refectory.

To all of you who work in cultural heritage, I acknowledge your enthusiasm and dedication in building the bridges that connect us to our past. It is these bridges that ensure we can build a cohesive, resilient Europe for the future.

My term as Commissioner is coming to an end. My successor, Commissioner-designate Mariya Gabriel, will continue our work to develop new ways to strengthen Europe’s commitment to preserving and protecting our cultural heritage, notably through new digital technologies.

Culture is back high on the EU’s political agenda. And rightly so – at its heart, the European project has always been above all about culture. I am proud of the part I have played in bringing culture back where it belongs. It has a unique power to build communities and a sense of belonging. And today more than ever, we must make the most of this power.

Thank you.