During the Dutch Presidency of the EU in the first half of 2016, the Pact of Amsterdam was adopted by EU ministers of the Interior and quoted by the EU Council. It states that European cities will be more involved in the creation of EU legislation, EU funding and knowledge sharing. The relevance of this involvement is highlighted by the statistics that cities and urban areas are now home to more than 70% of all Europeans.
This simultaneously makes cities the drivers of innovation and of the European economy but also the battleground for many of the societal struggles of the 21st century. In order to ensure that this is reflected by EU legislation, funding and knowledge sharing, the Urban Agenda for the EU (UAEU) was created. The Urban Agenda focuses on 14 priority themes essential to the development of urban areas. Each theme is explored and elaborate by a dedicated Partnership. These partnerships bring together cities, Member States and European institutions. Together, they aim to implement the Urban Agenda by finding workable ideas focused on the topics of EU legislation, funding and knowledge sharing. One of these 14 partnerships is the present one: the Partnership on Culture and Cultural Heritage (from now on C/CH Partnership).
Members of the Partnership on Culture and Cultural Heritage
The Partnership on Culture and Cultural Heritage represents the Urban Agenda’s new multi-level working method promoting cooperation between cities, Member States, the European Commission and other stakeholders. With about 30 very diverse members, it is the largest Partnership in the Urban Agenda.
- Germany – Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community
- Italy – National Governmental Agency for Territorial Cohesion (ACT) with Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Tourism (MiBACT)
- Cyprus – Department of Town Planning and Housing, Ministry of Interior
- France – Ministry of Culture
- Greece – Hellenic Ministry of Culture & Sports
- Spain – Ministry of Development and Public Work
- Canary Islands (ES)
- Coimbra Region (PT)
- Flemish Region (BE)
- Ljubljana Urban Region (SI)
- Silesian Voivodeship (PL)
- Alba Iulia (RO)
- Berlin (DE)
- Bordeaux (FR)
- Espoo (FI)
- Florence (IT)
- Jurmala (LV)
- Katowice (PL)
- Kazanlak (BG)
- Murcia (ES)
- Nagykanizsa (HU)
- Úbeda (ES)
- European Commission (DG REGIO, DG EAC, DG DEVCO, DG AGRI, DG RTD, DG EASME, DG CLIMA, SecGen, JRC)
- European Committee of the Regions
- European Investment Bank (EIB)
- Dutch Federation of Cultural Heritage Cities (NL)
Focus areas and activities
Culture and cultural heritage as a key resource of the European city
The Urban Agenda’s Partnership on P on Culture and Cultural Heritage stems from the conviction that culture and cultural heritage can be important drivers for strengthening the social and economic assets of European cities. The key concept behind the Partnership's activities is that a conscious, effective, integrated management of urban cultural heritage and urban cultural identities can help improve urban sustainable growth policies in larger metropolitan cities, but also in medium and small sized towns in Europe.
The Partnership considers culture and cultural heritage in the broad sense and explores their ecological, economic and social dimensions: cities and towns of Europe should be viewed as cultural resources requiring preservation and further development. Their potential for sustainable development in line with the Urban Agenda has ecological, economic and social relevance. Against this background, the Partnership on Culture and Cultural Heritage intends to focus on these three key issues, taking into account interdependencies – such as multilevel governance – and formulating results with reference to the three pillars of better regulation, better funding and better knowledge according to the Pact of Amsterdam. With this perspective, the field of actions to enhance urban cultural heritage extends towards the integration of the environment, tourism and recreational activities, actively interacting with interventions aimed at promoting the city.
Cultural heritage as ecological resource
The cultural heritage in cities and in the urban is essentially an ecological resource and also includes the natural and landscape heritage existing in our cities, suburbs and peripheral urban spaces. The cultural and natural heritage of cities must be preserved and strengthened against natural risks, such as climate change, but also and above all against the pressures exerted by anthropic activities by increasing the security of heritage and the resilience of cities and by decreasing pressure factors.
Cultural heritage as economic resource
Creativity and smart specialisation based on the enhancement of the local know how (the local way of producing, building, living) increase collaborative approaches to develop products, to accelerate markets and to identify synergies, by fostering a convergence between public policies and private investments and support open, inclusive and pluralistic societies. The role of the urban cultural heritage as an economic resource for local development is to be utilized as an essential element for civil cohabitation and for the processes of economic growth of a community.
Cultural heritage as a social resource
Over the course of history, urban cultural heritage has been relevant for social processes. Public cultural heritage management and its quality affect citizens’ sense of belonging to a place and their respect of public spaces as well as their attitude towards public authorities and the state. It is more and more important to enable inclusive and innovative processes to define and manage cultural heritage sites.
Cultural heritage as a governance and planning resource
Planning is not just a technical tool, but rather a political issue. It has been recognized that integrated, inclusive and holistic approaches that bring together actors from all levels and relevant fields are required for embedding culture and cultural heritage dimensions in urban development processes whilst ensuring the promotion and preservation of heritage.
An integrated action model.
The Partnership, after an intense activity of exchange and confrontation among partners, has developed a common comprehensive and articulated approach for urban policies based on culture and cultural heritage: the scoping paper (2018), the Orientation Paper (fall 2019) and a synthetic brochure (issued in 2018 and revised spring/summer 2020). The different components of this model are to be considered as issues (topics) that make up the different aspects of an integrated approach to the enhancement and management of culture and cultural heritage
Seven pillars for urban policies based on Culture and Cultural Heritage
The Partnership proposes an integrated and coherent approach to use culture and cultural heritage to develop urban development policies aimed at preserving and promoting the cultural identities of the physical city and its inhabitants, and to achieve the EU's cohesion objectives. As a result, seven main topics have been identified (five sectoral and two cross-cutting) as major focus areas.
The key objective is to promote sustainable tourism that brings benefits to communities and cities while respecting the needs of the local population and ensuring the sustainability of the heritage. As a result, one of the main challenges is working on methods and tools to balance touristic flows between major touristic hubs and less visited sites and cities. Due to the of the COVID-19 pandemic, the balanced distribution of touristic flows has now also acquired a means of security.
Creative and Cultural Sectors
Creative and cultural sectors offer valuable opportunities for the preservation of cultural heritage and the existing building stock to create jobs and support culture as well as innovation. Among the main challenges to be tackled: i) how to attract talents, create jobs and start-ups; ii) how to create spaces for non-economically driven artists and cultural activities; iii) how to preserve and promote local know how and (traditional) craftsmanship.
Transformation, Adaptive Reuse and Urban Reconversion
This topic includes the various aspects of transformation, vitalisation and reconversion of urban spaces, especially of the urban fringes, marginalised peripheral areas as well as post-industrial districts. Challenges are linked to several factors notably: i) how to reuse, adapt and transform existing cultural heritage sites and buildings for cultural and social purposes; ii) how to facilitate, delegate and manage investment in cultural heritage sites and buildings in a commercially feasible, environmentally and socially responsible way; iii) how to promote culture and cultural heritage transformation in a comprehensive and holistic manner.
Resilience of Cultural and Natural Heritage
Challenges related to this topic are mostly linked to climate change and man-made factors, which can threaten the preservation of the tangible and intangible heritage. The challenge for urban areas is three-fold: i) to safeguard the heritage from possible damage; ii) to improve the quality of cultural heritage and open/green spaces; and iii) to contribute to urban resilience by supporting new quality areas and projects that do not add pressure or constitute potential threats to the environment.
Cultural Services and Culture for Inclusive Cities
A major challenge is, how, in urban societies that are becoming increasingly older and diverse and are facing growing differences in income, the cultural participation of all social groups can be guaranteed. The partnership aims to overcome the barriers to access culture for all, finding solutions on how to develop and strengthen local services in light of well-known major trends from digitization to diversity and at the same time keeping them low-threshold and close to the local population.
Financial Sustainability and Funding (cross-cutting topic)
This topic deals with the financial aspects related to investments in the field of culture and cultural heritage aimed at the conservation and enhancement of buildings, monuments and structures, the setting up of “cultural infrastructures” as well as the rehabilitation of public spaces, including interventions made in the framework of complex processes of urban regeneration.
Interdisciplinary and Integrated Approaches for Governance (cross-cutting topic)
Bringing together actors from all levels of governance and relevant fields are crucial requirements for embedding the dimensions of culture and cultural heritage already in the early stages of urban planning and development programmes. Participatory and bottom-up processes are needed to enable local stakeholders to bring out the identities of urban places.
The Action Plan
Following the identified fields of research mentioned above, the partnership organized thematic Working groups (WG) to develop possible thematic actions while integrating cross-cutting aspects. Each WG also commissioned an external expert to conduct an in-depth analysis of challenges to overcome and to get a comprehensive overview of existing initiatives:
- WG Cultural Tourism: KEA (Arthur Le Gall)
- WG Cultural Sectors: Ecorys (Toms Feifs)
- WG Transformation: Eutropian (Daniela Patti)
- WG Resilience: World Bank (Barbara Minguez Garcia)
- WG Cultural Services: KEA (Philippe Kern)
Based on these preliminary outputs, the Partnership currently develops an Action Plan featuring a feasible number of concrete Actions for Better Regulation, Better Funding and Better Knowledge. These proposals are intended as contributions to the future revision of existing EU legislation, instruments and initiatives.
The actions proposed in this document have been chosen among a larger number of proposals developed by the thematic WGs, such as the most significant and relevant actions for the Partnership. The main selection criteria were the following:
- strategic relevance for all (EU level);
- effectiveness and impact;
- financial commitment and resources;
- integration with other policy tools/projects;
During the last phase of the Partnership in 2021, the Actions designed in the Action Plan will be implemented. The selected actions aim to develop coordinated, coherent, respectful urban policies aware of the historical, identity and social character of the urban heritage.
The actions address the following specific objectives:
- to activate virtuous economic dynamics linked to the protection and enhancement of the urban heritage, with the improvement of local economies;
- to manage the existing cultural heritage in an efficient and participatory manner, involving the citizenship, businesses and the private sector in the management and governance;
- to increase the degree of resilience of heritage by adopting policy choices aimed at the protection and enhancement of cultural and natural components rather than an intensive and massive exploitation of cultural resources;
- to manage the potential demand for cultural tourism addressed to the cultural heritage in the cities in a more sustainable, aware and effective way, regulating the intense flows in the most crowded tourist destinations and promoting the use of heritage in lesser known places;
- to optimize the cultural use of urban services in European cities, such as libraries and services for citizens, enhancing their cultural function and reaching all levels of the population;
- to develop and strengthen the economic activities carried out in the cities by enterprises and active people connected with the cultural and creative sectors, to increase the level of participation, demand and cultural offers in the cities;
- to develop intervention models and urban planning capable of enhancing the urban cultural heritage in all the forms in which it is produced, reaching more sustainable and conscious uses of heritage.
The Action Plan will comprehend: i) a first group of actions that reached a high level of adhesion and will be developed and implemented by Action Leaders and partners (Action Group); ii) a second group composed of actions that are considered worthy of interest and are relevant, but do not yet have an Action Leader to develop it further (so called “orphan” action) or cannot be implemented in 2021 for other reasons.
The whole list of cross-cutting integrated actions defined by the Partnership follows (as of July 2020), with more detailed descriptions of the actions further below:
Action 1.3: Regulating Short Term Rental (STR) Platform in cities - Better Regulation
Action 2: "Cultural Street Invasion, the LocalL and European identity" - Better Regulation
Action 3: "CHIME – Cultural Hubs for Innovation, Modernisation and Enhancement" - Better Regulation
Action 4: "Cultural Reactives” - Better Funding
Get more information on the Public Feedback
- Partnerships on Security in Public Space and Culture / Cultural Heritage submit their draft Action Plans to Public Feedback
- Background paper (draft action plan) to the Public Feedback
- What is a Public Feedback?
More of the Urban Agenda for the EU