2018 is the European Year of Cultural Heritage, officially launched at the European Culture Forum on 7 December 2017 in Milan, Italy. Cultural heritage shapes our everyday lives. It surrounds us in Europe’s towns and cities, natural landscapes and archaeological sites. It is not only found in literature, art and objects, but also in the crafts we learn from our ancestors, the stories we tell our children, the food we enjoy and the films we watch and recognise ourselves in.

Cultural heritage binds Europe together through our common history and values. It also represents the richness and diversity of our cultural traditions. Our shared cultural heritage is to be understood, cherished and celebrated. Yet cultural heritage is not only a legacy from the past. It also helps us forge the way ahead and design our future.

2018 sees an unparalleled series of initiatives and events across Europe to get people closer to and more involved with their cultural heritage, to encourage the sharing and appreciation of Europe’s rich heritage and to reinforce a sense of belonging to a common European space. The European Year of Cultural Heritage belongs to us all!




Cultural heritage brings people together and contributes to more cohesive societies. It creates growth and jobs in cities and regions and is central to Europe’s exchanges with the rest of the world. This is great potential for Europe, but it must be better exploited – and this year can help us do so.

The year focuses on children and young people, who will become guardians of our heritage for the next generations. This educational value of cultural heritage is emphasised, as is its contribution to sustainable economic and social development.

The year also promotes smart ways to preserve, manage and reuse Europe’s heritage.

A snapshot of Europe’s rich cultural heritage

With 453 inscribed sites, Europe as a region accounts for almost half of UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
With 89 inscribed elements, the EU accounts for a quarter of UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
There are 31 certified Council of Europe Cultural Routes, crossing over 50 countries in Europe and beyond.
Six of the world’s 10 most visited museums in 2016, according to The Art Newspaper, are in Europe. Altogether, these six popular museums had over 35 million visitors in 2016.
More than 54 million items from the collections of over 3 700 European cultural institutions are accessible through Europeana, Europe’s digital platform for cultural heritage.
The network of 27 000 protected Natura 2000 sites accounts for 18 % of the EU’s land and almost 6 % of its marine territory.

Sources: UNESCO 2016; Council of Europe, 2017; European Commission, 2017; The Art Newspaper, 2016


Cultural heritage matters for Europe


Sources: Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe report, 2016; Eurobarometer on the preferences of Europeans towards tourism, 2016; Linking Natura 2000 and cultural heritage, 2017

Europe’s cultural heritage faces a variety of challenges, ranging from changes in the way people participate in cultural activities to environmental threats and the illicit trafficking of cultural objects.

How can we better promote the great potential of cultural heritage? How can we maximise its social and economic benefits? How can we better protect and manage our cultural heritage while ensuring that people from all backgrounds have access to it?

The European Year of Cultural Heritage provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on how to better address the potential and the challenges of the sector.


The European Year of Cultural Heritage is implemented through a series of initiatives at European, national, regional and local levels. At the national and subnational levels, national coordinators designated by EU Member States take the lead.


The EU’s investment in cultural heritage


Cultural heritage is one of the main sectors supported through Creative Europe and one of the most represented sectors among the projects selected for financing so far. Out of a total of 426 actions supported between 2014 and 2016, 17 % are in the field of cultural heritage. For 2017, 81 cooperation projects have been selected, of which 16 % (13 projects) are in the field of cultural heritage.


An estimated EUR 6 billion are available for the cultural and creative sectors and cultural heritage through the Cohesion Fund for the period 2014-2020. Moreover, in 2018-2019, EUR 100 million will be available for cultural heritage-related research under the Horizon 2020 programme.


From 2007 to 2013, the EU invested EUR 4.4 billion in heritage projects for regional development and rural development, and around EUR 100 million in heritage research.

Source: European Commission, 2017


The year sees thousands of events and celebrations taking place across Europe.

Projects and initiatives implemented in EU Member States, municipalities and regions are complemented by transnational projects funded by the EU. In 2018, cultural heritage projects are being funded with the support of Erasmus+, Europe for Citizens, Horizon 2020 and other EU programmes. A dedicated call for heritage projects has also been launched under the Creative Europe programme, funding up to 25 transnational projects.

The year also features prominently in the following cultural heritage activities at EU level.

  • The European Heritage Days are a key European activity organised annually during the autumn. More than 70 000 events take place every year, reaching over 30 million people.
  • The European Heritage Label has been awarded to 29 sites that are milestones in the creation of today’s Europe, celebrating and symbolising European values and history.
  • Two European Capitals of Culture are designated each year in order to highlight the cultural richness of Europe. In 2018, the capitals are Valletta (Malta) and Leeuwarden (Netherlands).
  • The EU Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards annually recognises best practices related to heritage conservation, management, research, education and communication.

What will happen beyond 2018?

To make sure our efforts leave an imprint beyond 2018, the Commission, in collaboration with the Council of Europe, UNESCO, and other partners, will run long-term projects around 10 themes (10 European initiatives). These include activities with schools, research on innovative solutions for reusing heritage buildings or the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural goods. The objective is to help trigger real change in the way we enjoy, protect and promote heritage, making sure that the European year benefits citizens in the longer term.

The 10 European initiatives correspond to four principles that define what European cultural heritage stands for: engagement, sustainability, protection and innovation.


Ten European initiatives for the European Year of Cultural Heritage

Engagement Engagement
  1. Shared heritage: cultural heritage belongs to us all
  2. Heritage at school: children discovering Europe’s most precious treasures and traditions
  3. Youth for heritage: young people bringing new life to heritage
Sustainability Sustainability
  1. Heritage in transition: re-imagining industrial, religious and military sites and landscapes
  2. Tourism and heritage: responsible and sustainable tourism around cultural heritage
Protection Protection
  1. Cherishing heritage: developing quality standards for interventions on cultural heritage
  2. Heritage at risk: fighting against illicit trade in cultural goods and managing risks for cultural heritage
Innovation Innovation
  1. Heritage-related skills: better education and training for traditional and new professions
  2. All for heritage: fostering social innovations and people’s and communities’ participation
  3. Science for heritage: research, innovation, science and technology for the benefit of heritage


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