Znak Dziedzictwa Europejskiego – Michel Magnier

2018 marks the 5th anniversary of the first four European Heritage Label Sites designations. Five years might look long, but it is a short period for this kind of initiative. Still, the European Heritage Label is a  successful action.

We have, together with the Member States, labelled 38 sites, representing diverse historical periods, values, heritage typologies, and located in 18 different countries. These sites help us and the citizens understand better what the action could become. It is certainly a big achievement.

The action has not changed yet, we needed these five years to assess how it is working and how would it work better. During 2018 we are carrying out an evaluation of the action, the results of which should be ready in a few weeks. The findings of the evaluation should give us a solid basis to think about future changes.

The European Heritage Label is strongly linked with the safeguarding of the diversity of cultures in Europe and with the intercultural dialogue, two of our most important objectives. It should also become a vehicle for a better understanding of Europe and the European Union as it is today, its history and its values.

We should ask ourselves if there is a need of a “common” narrative. It is clear that Europe has a shared narrative, but does everybody need to agree to a single interpretation?

The current labelled sites represent the diversity of sources that have shaped the Europe we live in today. It corresponds to the motto of the European Union, “United in diversity”, and this is how it should be. The new sites that will join the list after the selection in 2019 and beyond will, I hope, contribute to this diversity and to a better understanding of our identity.

The EHL is a tool to enhance this understanding and can help the citizens to feel more European, prouder of the heritage that we all share. But as any initiative, it has limits. It needs to complement and be complemented also by efforts in other fields, such as education, for example.

The EHL initiative follows in many countries a bottom‑up approach. While some countries prefer to contact sites that they feel have the potential to receive the Label, many others allow and encourage an interpretation of the European significance that comes from site managers, associations, or citizens. And we should not forget that the sites that aim to receive the Label should have a plan to communicate this European dimension that is clearly addressed to the citizens.

The current form of the EHL effectively integrate tangible cultural heritage with intangible one. Sites such as the Abolition of the death penalty, for example, even if symbolized by a physical document stored in a physical place, represent values that are intangible but of utmost importance. I would even say that the perspective of the European significance of the EHL sites adds an element of intangible heritage to all the sites, despite their tangible nature, that is more linked to their artistic merits.

We need to start by showing that we are proud of the Label both at the European Union, Member States and sites. But the brand can only come from the ground up, with the sites being ambassadors of the initiative and encouraging other sites to think about their European resonance and enhance this narrative towards their visitors.

We already have tools for promotion that are not necessarily used by the current sites. And I am sure that the sites have interesting ideas for promotion that are not always shared with other sites or the Commission. Sites have to be more in contact to build a strong brand.

In the near future, a network of sites will be established, with financing from Creative Europe. It should start being built in 2019 and we are looking forward to what the sites will propose, within the network, to enhance this initiative. The Label is still young and this is, I am convinced, a good moment to fine tune it, after the experience of these few years since it was established.

Michel Magnier – since 2013, director for Culture and Creativity in the European Commission.