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Review: Europa Nostra UK Member's Forum

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

This review was written by valued committee member Charles Thomson. To read the review published on the Europa Nostra website “There is no Brexit in Europa Nostra”written by Grace Connelly, with editing from Joana Pinheiro, please click here.

The introductions and Q&As at The Europa Nostra/Europa Nostra UK Forum on 28 September supported clearly our five strands: our shared European cultural history, connecting us throughout Europe, raising the profile of Europa Nostra UK, making links with other heritage bodies, and formulating our general Heritage Policy. The 44 attendees included almost all of the EN staff in The Hague and Brussels, and others with previous and long-standing connections with EN/ENUK.

ENUK’s chairman Sara Crofts’ welcome to one and all asserted our five strands, that many of us had contributed to over the years – not least through Member Organisations, and that there were now 30 young members throughout the UK.

EN’s Executive President, Dr Hermann Parzinger, recognised familiar figures present and stressed the importance of developing EN further and strengthening our ties with the rest of continental Europe. The UK as a whole had included 62 laureates since 2002, more than any other country. Despite leaving the EU after 47 years, the UK was part of EN’s ‘one family’ with the same aims, supporting our Cultural Heritage Manifesto. Dr Parzinger thanked the team in The Hague, and the team in Brussels, and expressed his happiness in joining the meeting. Sara Crofts then thanked him, and for speaking with such passion.

EN’s Secretary General, Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, then asked ‘what can I add’? Maybe she was ‘the biggest veteran’, having come from Belgrade in 1991. European integration was ‘much more than the market economy’ and included history, heritage and culture. It was an antidote to all sorts of nationalism: ‘We have to be much closer together’ and ‘We all learned English’ (the biggest legacy). As one of the EU’s ‘strategic partners’ the UK will have ample opportunities for input into the work of Europa Nostra, as projects chosen by the UK government go forward. The UK had a wealth of experience with the rest of the world, e.g. through digital transformation and the Young Heritage Network. We were a ‘phenomenal family’.

Graham Bell, EN Board Member and ‘question master’ then opened the Forum for questions. To ‘What is the UK’s distinctive contribution?’, he asserted that the UK had ‘shaped the lobby together’ and that EN was a ‘civil society movement’. Dr Parzinger stressed that the UK had been an important EN partner right from the start. To the suggestion that ‘In EN communications, EN is often used as a synonym for the EU’, Dr Parzinger stressed that we should always say ‘Europe’, but not as a synonym. Sneska had two directions to follow: ‘we endorse that UK Member Organisations are still important’ and ‘we should still take initiatives’. Our relationship should become even stronger.

Torsten Haak, a German who has lived in Glasgow for more than 20 years and who heads the Glasgow City Heritage Trust, stressed that funds for Europa Nostra are given independent of country, e.g. from EU authorities and the European Investment Bank. Sneska stressed that other non-EU member countries e.g. Norway also had strong relations with the EU. The Heritage Alliance (a Member Organisation) has

inspired EN as a ‘heritage alliance’ and Lorena Aldana of EN’s Brussels office is happy to shape out EN’s policy with ENUK.

Catherine Leonard, Secretary-General of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) , was happy to share out INTO’s perspectives with Europa Nostra’s country representatives. In answer to ‘would EN continue to be willing to open out relations with non-EU countries?’ Dr Parzinger said that he would not appreciate separating EU and non-EU relationships with EN – rather, we should be ‘working as much as possible together’. In answer to a question on ‘meaningful connections for development’ Sneska mentioned webinars with EN representatives in different countries. There were now 163 young members of EN, including 31 from the UK. EN was developing contacts within the European student cultural network, e.g. through the EN ‘Agora’ and youth activities. In response to ‘how can we maintain links once we return to ‘normal?’ Sneska said that lots more have participated under Zoom and thus getting to know our membership across Europe. EN can also organise some smaller events, reflecting the young membership’s ‘innovative contributions’. Dr Parzinger asked ‘but who can afford to travel to physical meetings?’

On a question from Jenny Hawks of the Foundation for Religious Heritage (FRH): ‘Can ‘heritage skills’ artisans from the UK be part of EN networks?’ Sneska said that we can feed policy networks via the Council of Europe (of which the UK is still a member) which attaches importance to heritage skills. Dr Parzinger pointed out that there were many EU/European students in the UK and that Switzerland had a contract with the EU to fund the European Research Council.

Graham Bell then continued as the chairman of the meeting, when Peter Collins (EN Council member) drew attention to the ‘needs blind’ policy of the University of Oxford, and Sara Crofts drew attention to the Climate Change Network. Sneska mentioned the ‘Green Deal’, influencing policy at the UK level. The UK was a leading player in global communications, having links in the USA and with ICOMOS. ‘We will be hosting the ‘common cause’ in Glasgow next year’.

Sara Crofts then stressed the importance of getting people to talk about their shared cultural policy. She then thanked Sneska and the EN staff present, and gave thanks to Graham Bell and to Grace Connelly, our facilitator from ‘behind the scenes’ who ‘kept the wheels turning’. Sneska concluded: ‘Please be constantly in touch’ as ‘part of Our Europe’.

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