A new European Heritage Label could be awarded to monuments, natural, archaeological, urban or cultural sites that have played a significant role in European history and culture or in European integration, after the EP Committee on Culture and Education voted unanimously on Wednesday to back such a scheme.
The label could also be awarded to places of remembrance and even for "intangible heritage" associated with a place. Contemporary heritage would not be excluded. The aims include raising young people’s awareness of their common cultural heritage and enhancing their sense of European identity as well as promoting sites as tourist destinations. The sites would have to ensure access for the widest possible public, including disabled people.
An intergovernmental project for this purpose has existed since 2006. To date, a total of 64 sites located in 17 EU Member States and Switzerland bear the label. However, the sites were selected independently by participating countries with no European body overseeing the initiatives. The Culture Committee voted to restart the project as an EU scheme, rejecting a proposal for including sites that already have the label. MEPs also believe the new programme should initially only involve EU Member States, although it could in future be extended to third countries. Participation by Member States would be voluntary. Countries could also nominate sites jointly, and special consideration would be given to such applications.
Member States should pre-select up to two sites every two years (instead of annually as proposed by the Commission), say MEPs. A maximum of one site per country would then be chosen by the Commission with the help of 13 independent experts nominated by the EP, the Council, the Commission and the Committee of the Regions, which should seek to ensure a geographically balanced representation on the panel.
MEPs also stress that "the attribution of the European label shall not entail any obligation of an urban planning, judicial, landscaping, mobility or architectural nature". Nevertheless, Member States would be obliged to monitor the labelled sites.
Although the label would normally be attributed permanently, it could be withdrawn by the Commission or by the countries themselves.
The proposal will be further negotiated with Member States in the Council before the EP plenary vote in December.
Draft report on the proposal for a decision of the EP and of the Council establishing an EU action for the European Heritage Label
Result of vote: 28 in favour, 0 against, 0 abstentions