The European Commission has proposed 2018 as the European Year of Cultural Heritage. The final decision now lies with the European Parliament and the Council.

Europe's cities and landscapes are marked by physical memories of the past. Castles, bridges and archaeological wonders are some of the most quintessential examples. Traditions, languages and art passed through the generations shape our everyday lives.

"Our cultural heritage is more than the memory of our past; it is the key to our future. A European Year of Cultural Heritage will be an opportunity to raise awareness of the social and economic importance of cultural heritage and to promote European excellence in the sector."

"I call on the European Parliament and Council to support our proposal and invite all stakeholders to help make this Year a success."

Tibor Navracsics, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport

Because cultural heritage is so central to Europe's identity and due to the grave threats it faces in conflict zones, the European Commission considers that the time is right to celebrate cultural heritage in 2018.

The year will highlight what the EU can do for conservation, digitisation, infrastructure, research and skills development. Cultural heritage is supported through Creative Europe, the funding programme for the cultural and audiovisual sectors. Events will be organised across Europe, as well as information, education and awareness-raising campaigns.

Cultural heritage can play a key role in the EU's relations with the rest of the world, particularly in responding to the destruction of cultural heritage in conflict zones and the illegal trafficking of cultural artefacts.

Background

Cultural heritage became an EU priority with the European Agenda for Culture  in 2007. In 2014, the Council highlighted the social and economic benefits of heritage policies in its Conclusions on cultural heritage as a strategic resource for a sustainable Europe.

In response, in July 2014 the European Commission adopted the Communication "Towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage for Europe". The communication states that the sector is at a "crossroads" due to:

  • reduced public budgets
  • falling participation in traditional cultural activities
  • diversifying potential audiences due to urbanisation
  • globalisation
  • technological change

It also highlighted opportunities for EU countries and stakeholders to work more closely across borders to ensure that cultural heritage contributes more to sustainable growth and jobs.

In November 2014, EU Culture Ministers adopted Council Conclusions on participatory governance of cultural heritage, inviting the Commission to propose a European Year of Cultural Heritage. The European Parliament resolution of 8 September 2015 invited the Commission 'to designate, preferably for 2018, a European Year of Cultural Heritage'.

The recent Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe report shows that heritage creates jobs, encourages investment and can improve social cohesion. An estimated 300,000 people work directly in the cultural heritage sector in the EU and as many as 7.8 million jobs are created indirectly by the sector.