Making European identity tangible
Enlarge image (© REGIERUNGonline/Reineke) The European Union is sometimes criticized as an elitist project that has little impact on the lives and outlook of its citizens. These criticisms are nothing new, but with the ongoing euro crisis they have become increasingly vocal. The European Heritage Label is a new scheme designed to strengthen EU citizens’ sense of a common bond and European identity. As from 2013, sites that have played a significant role in European integration or stand for the ideals and history of Europe and the European Union will be eligible for the European Heritage Label. As symbols of the shared values of freedom, democracy, cultural diversity, tolerance and solidarity, such sites help strengthen European identity. The scheme was launched at the end of November following the relevant bill’s second reading and approval by the European Parliament.
The new Label is the result of an intergovernmental initiative established in 2006 with the backing of France and Spain with the aim of making the idea of an integrated Europe more tangible. Since January 2011 Germany has been participating in the initiative with the networks “Reformation Sites” and “Iron Curtain Sites”. At their meeting in May 2011, EU culture ministers agreed that the European Heritage Label should become a European Union scheme. Following approval by the Council and the European Parliament, the scheme took effect on 23 November 2011. As from 2013 cultural or archaeological monuments, cultural landscapes or memorial sites that are deemed to have extraordinary significance for European history and culture or for the history of European integration will be eligible for the European Heritage Label. Germany in particular helped ensure that also thematically linked sites are eligible for the new Label.
The European Heritage Label is in no way intended to compete with UNESCO’s World Heritage list or the Council of Europe’s Cultural Routes scheme. The Label is attributed purely on the basis of a site’s symbolic significance, not on account of its beauty or architectural quality. Special importance is attached to the site’s educational value, since the prime aim is to raise young people’s awareness of European history and culture. In her remarks welcoming the decision by EU culture ministers in May, Minister of State Pieper noted how pleased she was that “the new Label is intended to resonate particularly with young people. It will help make European identity more tangible and meaningful.”
Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/ dpa) Each EU member state participating in the scheme may every two years propose a maximum of two sites for the new Label. Subsequently the proposals will be reviewed by a panel of independent experts, who will then recommend at most one site per member state for the new Label.
© Auswärtiges Amt