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High-level conference on cultural heritage in Europe


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I am honoured to open this conference on cultural heritage in Europe, which is being held as part of the European Year of Cultural Heritage, 2018.

The European Parliament, and in particular its Committee on Education and Culture, has been a consistent advocate of this initiative.

I want to thank you all for being here today. I want to offer a special word of thanks to the musicians from the brass ensemble of the European Union Youth Orchestra, who just played for us pieces by Howarth, Verdi and Beethoven.

I should also like to thank the musicians from the Europa in canto orchestra, and in particular, the 40 children aged between 6 and 12 who will perform pieces from Aida.  Hello kids! (they will be sitting next to the podium). We look forward to listening to you (at 16.20).

Here in Parliament, in the house of the people, we are convinced that creativity is at the heart of our identity as Europeans.

Today, we have invited a number of eminent persons who exemplify what we mean by European genius. We are proud to welcome Jean-Michel Jarre, composer, musician and record producer; Daniel Barenboim, pianist and conductor;  Ezio Bosso, conductor and composer;  Thierry Marx, chef; Mathilde de L’Ecotais, photographer, director and designer;  and Radu Mihaileanu, film director and former honorary president of the selection panel for the Lux Prize, which Parliament founded in 2007. Thank you for being here with us.

Our aim in organising today’s event is to invite our citizens to rediscover the importance of Europe’s cultural heritage. Our common history goes back over 3000 years, and in that time we have forged our common identity.

If we have succeeded in building together a Union founded on shared values, with freedom and the dignity of the individual at its core, then we owe our success, more than anything, to that history.

Our identity was born on the islands in and on the shores of the Mediterranean, along the rivers, and it was shaped by an ongoing journey undertaken by people keen to exchange goods and ideas. It was a journey which continued along the great Roman roads, in the amphitheatres, in philosophical and satirical works, in comedies and tragedies.

It continued in the mediaeval monasteries, where monks passed on the knowledge acquired by the ancients; in the first universities, places of pilgrimage for students from every corner of Europe. in the independent city states, in the free ports, where people could always be found who were open to new adventures, whether in the form of new markets to conquer or new lands to explore.

It led to the Renaissance, to the Enlightenment, to Romanticism, to modern thought, as geniuses from all parts of Europe met and learnt from one another: from Dante to Shakespeare, from Caravaggio to Rembrandt, from Molière to Goethe, from Bach to Mozart, from Voltaire to Manzoni, from Van Gogh to Picasso, from Camus to Pirandello.

Thanks to that extraordinary journey, half of the UNESCO world heritage sites can be found in Europe.  We Europeans know who we are, and we know that we have nothing to fear from other cultures.

Thanks to our history, Europe is at the forefront of the cultural and creative industries, where beauty, design and style meet technology and industrial know-how in a continuous search for excellence.

These industries are among the most dynamic in the world, they create opportunities for growth and new, skilled jobs for young people. It has been estimated that every new job in the cultural sector indirectly creates 27 jobs in other parts of the economy, far more than new jobs in the automotive industry, for example. In the European Union, 7.8 million people work in the cultural and creative industries.


Today’s discussions will also focus on the challenges we face when seeking to safeguard and promote creative processes in the digital era. The whole EU economy will suffer unless decisive action is taken to maintain our levels of creativity.

We must support young Europeans who dream of becoming writers, film directors, musicians, designers and top chefs in a world dominated by the hi-tech giants.  We must offer a broad range of cultural activities and avert any decline into banal uniformity.

The European Parliament is taking the lead in meeting these challenges.

I wish to thank my colleagues for the excellent work they have done on amending the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which ensures there will be European content quotas for video-on-demand platforms. Initiatives such as the Lux Prize also help ensure the cultural diversity of our film industry.

Creativity calls for financial investment and an investment of time and effort, and without fair remuneration it will whither and die. We can no longer tolerate a situation in which Europe’s creativity is exploited by the web giants for their material gain.

All too often online platforms broadcast music, films, articles and literature without paying the authors and artists anything at all, and the digital environment is conducive to breaches of intellectual property rights in the fields of design and fashion.

The Union must see to it that the digital market functions correctly and guarantee copyright protection.

Europe is a byword for style, know-how and beauty the world over. It is our strength, and we are the undisputed world leader in this area. We cannot outsource our heritage, as it is this which will be the driver of a new political and economic Renaissance.

Over the next 10 years, the number of international tourists is set to double, to over 2 billion.

A large proportion of those tourists be from a newly emerging – mainly Asian – class, with spending power. These new travellers will come in search of the beauty, style, design, fashion and cuisine that Europe can offer. They constitute an endless potential source of fresh demand for goods, services and exports. There will be a knock-on effect for all the key sectors of our economy: transport, construction, commerce, shipbuilding, fashion and the agri-food business.

Cultural heritage is a key facet of the economies of Europe’s regions and cities and key factor in their appeal. We must be innovative when harnessing its potential.

I am talking, for example, of the digitisation of museums and journeys back in time using augmented reality at our archaeological sites, industrial tourism and gastronomic tourism.

At the end of the opening session, an ARTE documentary will show how the digital revolution is helping to revitalise our heritage.

The ambitious ‘Macchina del tempo di Venezia’ project aims to digitise 10 centuries-worth of archives from the city of Venice. It will bring the Venice of the past back to life in four dimensions.


Ladies and gentlemen,

When we talk about cultural heritage we mean not just our past but also, and above all, our future.

The feeling of belonging to Europe cannot be created simply by developing Europe’s economy and guaranteeing its security.

The European Year of Cultural Heritage presents an unmissable opportunity to rediscover the extraordinary cultural diversity that underpins our European adventure. It is only by acknowledging this and placing culture centre stage that we can ensure that our European dream continues.

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