European Scrutiny Committee Contents

10 European Heritage Label



COM(10) 76

+ ADDs 1-2

Draft Decision to establish a European Union action for the European Heritage Label

Commission staff working documents: impact assessment and summary of assessment

Legal baseArticle 167 TFEU; co-decision; QMV
Document originated9 March 2010
Deposited in Parliament15 March 2010
DepartmentCulture, Media and Sport
Basis of considerationEM of 31 March 2010
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared; further information requested


10.1 The concept of a European Heritage Label (EHL) is not new. In 2006. France, Hungary and Spain made an inter-governmental agreement to introduce an EHL to "strengthen the support of European citizens for a shared European identity and foster a sense of belonging to a common cultural space". Since 2007, 64 sites in 17 Member States and in Switzerland have been awarded the label.

10.2 In November 2008, the Council invited the Commission to make a proposal for the creation of an EU European Heritage Label, transforming the existing inter-governmental agreement into an EU initiative. In 2009, the Commission issued a consultation paper on the idea. The then Minister for Culture and Tourism (Barbara Follett) wrote to our predecessors about the consultation paper and enclosed a copy of the Government's response to it. In a nutshell, the Government said that the UK had 27 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and was trying to reduce the number of heritage designations. It doubted the justification for creating another designation scheme.

10.3 Article 167 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) requires the EU to contribute to "the flowering of the cultures of the Member States […] at the same time bringing the common cultural heritage to the fore". The Article provides that EU action should support and supplement the efforts of Member States to improve and disseminate the culture and history of the European peoples. It gives the Council and the European Parliament power to adopt incentive measures to contribute to the achievement of the Article's objectives.

The document

10.4 The Commission proposes this draft Decision in response to the Council's invitation. Article 3 provides that the objectives of the EU EHL would be to:

  • strengthen EU citizen's sense of belonging to the EU;
  • strengthen inter-cultural dialogue, especially between young people;
  • increase public awareness of sites which have played an important part in the history of the EU;[47]
  • increase EU citizen's — and particularly young people's — understanding of the development of Europe and their common but diverse cultural heritage;
  • develop the European significance of sites;
  • facilitate sharing of experience and best practice;
  • increase public access to sites; and
  • contribute to the attractiveness and sustainable development of the regions where sites are located.

10.5 Article 4 provides that participation in the EU EHL scheme would be open to all Member States and entirely voluntary.

10.6 Article 7 provides that:

  • applicants for the award of an EU EHL would have to satisfy the specific criteria set out in the Article (demonstrate, for example, that the site is of more than national interest or has links with important European events or personalities);
  • applicants would also have to produce a statement showing how they would organise and run the project (so as, for example, to promote multilingualism by using several EU languages); and
  • in addition, applicants would have to produce a management plan showing how they would, for example, ensure access to the site by the widest range of people, provide visitor information and protect the environment.

10.7 Article 8 provides for the appointment of an independent European panel to select sites to receive an EHL. The panel would have 12 members who are expert in European history, culture or other relevant matters. Four would be appointed by the Council, four by the Commission and four by the European Parliament. Their term of office would be three years.

10.8 Article 10 gives participating Member States responsibility for "pre-selection": that is, for deciding which applications for the award of an EU EHL to a site in the participating State's territory should go forward for consideration by the European selection panel. The State could not pre-select more than two sites a year.

10.9 Under Article 11, the European selection panel would be required to evaluate all the pre-selected sites and, using the criteria listed in Article 7, recommends no more than one site from each participating Member State for the award of the EU EHL. Article 13 gives the Commission responsibility for making the award to the sites recommended by the panel. The Label is permanent unless the panel recommends its withdrawal because the site no longer satisfies the criteria for the EU EHL.

10.10 Article 17 gives the Commission responsibility for ensuring that there is an independent and external evaluation of the EU EHL scheme every six years and for reporting the findings to the Council and the European Parliament.

10.11 Article 19 allocates the scheme a budget of €1,350,000 for the three years from the beginning of 2011 until the end of 2013.

The Government's view

10.12 In her Explanatory Memorandum of 31 March 2010, the then Minister for Culture and Tourism (Margaret Hodge) said that the Government retained its doubts about the need for an EU EHL scheme (see paragraph 10.2 above). In its view, the UNESCO World Heritage List is sufficient for designating supra-national significance. Moreover, the Government believed that there is a risk that, over time, the complexity and burden of managing an EU EHL scheme would grow.

10.13 The Minister said that, at present, the Government considered that the UK should not take part in the scheme. Even so, the Government would try to ensure, during the negotiations on the draft Directive, that the burdens and obligations placed on Member States and the owners and managers of heritage sites are minimised.


10.14 We share the Government's view that an EU Heritage Label scheme should be created only if there is a strong justification for it. We also share its doubts that the case has been made. It is clear, however, that many other Member States value the current inter-governmental scheme. So there may be wide support for the draft Decision. We agree with the Government that it is vital that participation in the EU scheme should be entirely voluntary.

10.15 The negotiations on the draft Decision are still at an early stage. We should be grateful, therefore, if the Minister would send us progress reports on the negotiations. Meanwhile, we shall keep the document under scrutiny.

47   Article 2 of the draft Decision defines sites as "monuments, natural or urban sites, cultural landscapes, places of remembrance, cultural goods and objects, intangible heritage attached to a place, including contemporary heritage". Back

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