European heritage label seeks to bind EU states

Thu Mar 11, 2010 11:13am EST
 
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By Sangeeta Shastry

BRUSSELS (Reuters Life!) - In an effort to create a sense of shared history, the European Union has launched an initiative to promote important sites of culture and heritage across its 27 member states and the continent.

The European Heritage label -- modeled on the U.N. World Heritage program -- brings together dozens of locations that have had a part to play in forging the culture and history of modern Europe.

The label has already been awarded to 64 places, from Poland's Gdansk shipyards, a hotbed of the Solidarity movement that helped bring an end to communism, to the Acropolis in Athens, a relic of ancient Greece and a symbol of democracy.

The European Commission formally signed off on the idea this week, and it will now be expanded across the union, with each member state allowed to nominate two sites for the label each year, although only one, at most, will be chosen.

In its sweep, the initiative seeks to contribute to the political and economic integration of Europe by binding its 4,000-year-old history and culture more tightly together, and building on the European City of Culture program that has been running since the 1980s.

Cypriot Androulla Vassiliou, the European commissioner in charge of education, culture, multilingualism and youth, believes the initiative will give the European Union's 500 million citizens a better sense of where they have come from.

For young people particularly, she hopes it will be educational and contribute to cultural tourism throughout the bloc, which will in turn have economic benefits.

"There will be new opportunities to learn about our common yet diverse cultural heritage, about the history and the building of the European Union, and about the democratic values and human rights that underpin European integration," she said.   Continued...

 
<p>Visitors walk behind Propylaia, the ancient Acropolis gateway, as the Parthenon temple (R) is seen in the background in Athens, January 5, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/John Kolesidis</p>