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Parliamentary questions
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11 June 2019
Answer given by Mr Navracsics on behalf of the European Commission
Question reference: E-001359/2019

The Commission considers the safeguarding of all forms of cultural heritage sites, including natural heritage sites such as caves, very important. However, in accordance with Article 167 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, action by the European Union is limited to encouraging cooperation between Member States and supporting their action, with a view to safeguarding cultural heritage. Accordingly, the protection of Europe's cultural heritage is primarily a national responsibility and should be taken up with the relevant National authorities.

Since 2000, the European Regional Development Fund has assisted the restoration and promotion of caves, in particular those where human traces have been discovered, including the caves of Petralona, Theopetra, Diros, Koutouki, Fraghthi and Ideon Antron. The amount allocated to this intervention so far amounts to some EUR 14 million.

Caves may qualify as habitats in accordance with EU nature legislation(1). Member States need to take measures to ensure their conservation through the designation and protection of Natura 2000 sites. Measures to support the biodiversity and the management of relevant sites can be supported through the LIFE programme. There are several examples of caves in cultural heritage sites which overlap with Natura 2000 sites(2).

In the Commission’s proposed regulation on the European Regional Development Fund and on the Cohesion Fund(3), there are two specific objectives, providing full thematic flexibility to address needs, notably in the area of cultural and natural heritage, through integrated territorial development strategies. The intervention fields falling under those objectives are complemented by intervention fields under other objectives.

(1)Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC, OJ L 206, 22.7.1992, p. 7‐50.
(3)Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Regional Development Fund and on the Cohesion Fund, COM(2018) 372 final, 29.5.2018.

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