By working collectively on the poor neighbourhoods we seem to have forgotten about the small villages struggling to survive, and the old industrial cities which have lost their soul. We can use the successes of the regenerated industrial quarters of Lille (France), Katowice (Poland) and Manchester (United Kingdom) as promising examples. We must also replace mass tourism with more sustainable and responsible forms by, for instance, promoting lesser-known destinations to spread visitors more evenly across Europe. Civil society organisations, driven by local communities and the general public, are perfectly positioned to lead the revitalisation of Europe’s cultural heritage. Obviously, we cannot save every site or every monument with public money alone. We must unlock the potential of the private sector for the revival and transformation of Europe's heritage.
Europa Nostra1 – the organisation of which I am Executive President – has studied, protected, celebrated and promoted heritage on a European scale for more than 55 years. In the Paris Manifesto2, published on 30 October 2019, representatives of the world of cultural heritage, facilitated by Europa Nostra, asserted that our shared cultural heritage needs to be at the heart of the European project. Without it, Europe would not and could not exist. It is the underlying reason of what it means to be European. This is also the core of what Europa Nostra stands for, our raison d'être.
As the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property also stated in a recent article What Constitutes a Good Life3: “While there may be tacit recognition that culture contributes to wellbeing, from a policy point of view this consideration is still in its infancy. [...] When culture is reduced to a recreational pastime, when we fail to recognise heritage as a way of life that links both livelihood and identity, opportunities to enhance meaning and value in our lives are lost.” On 9 May 2020, Europe Day, the European Heritage Alliance published another manifesto: Cultural Heritage: a powerful catalyst for the future of Europe4. This manifesto shows seven interconnected ways to achieve positive societal change through cultural heritage: 1. Healing Europe; 2. Being Europe; 3. Digitally Transforming Europe; 4. Greening Europe; 5. Regenerating Europe; 6. Experiencing Europe; 7. Embracing the World. It reflects the firm belief of the European Heritage Alliance that Europe must respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with the long-needed and far-reaching transformation of our way of life.