Ein Kommentar von Hermann Parzinger

The COVID-19 pandemic, the deplorable war in Ukraine, the ongoing climate crisis, threats to our democracy and the role of law, and the destruction of our natural world make one point clear: we have to change our perspective and focus on what brings us together, not what divides us. This is precisely the message of our essay “Togetherness”, published in the “Big Ideas” series of the European Investment Bank.

Indeed, if we want Europe to remain a beacon of prosperity, hope and solidarity in a vulnerable world, we have to rediscover and reassert our common ground and our shared values. We also need to strengthen the sense of belonging and the feeling of togetherness among us, as Europeans and as citizens of the world. Europa Nostra – the European Voice of Civil Society committed to Cultural Heritage in Europe – firmly believes that our cultural heritage is an integral part of the solution to so many complex challenges. It can help us overcome our national, local, and personal differences; it can help us find a way forward to a safer, more sustainable, more inclusive and more beautiful Europe. How can Europe fulfil its promise if we do not reinvent and redesign the very basis of our cooperation and come up with innovative, creative and bold solutions?

Europa Nostra and I firmly believe that Europe’s thousands of monuments and sites in our cities and countryside, Europe’s rich and diverse cultures combined with our shared history, values and ideals, are strategic vectors to achieve Europe’s key priorities, from fostering social cohesion and mutual understanding to advancing Europe’s much-needed green transformation. We need a heritage-led transformation of Europe’s society, economy and environment; a revamp of the entire European project, powered by civil society and supported by local, regional, national and European organisations and institutions.

To do so, we have to save and give a renewed relevance to many monuments, sites, and landscapes across Europe which are under threat of uncontrolled development, lack of resources, negative impact of climate change or even war. And we must mobilise these unique cultural assets to imagine and realise a New Europe. How? By investing in cultural heritage, we can revitalise our cities’ historic centers or their poor neighbourhoods, our small towns or villages some of which are struggling with depopulation, or our industrial areas which have lost their initial purpose. We can also replace mass tourism with more sustainable and responsible forms of tourism, for instance, by promoting lesser-known destinations to spread visitors more evenly across Europe.

If we manage to use Europe’s ever-changing and vibrant culture and heritage as a powerful catalyst for change, the return on investment will be substantial. It is therefore high time to transform our ambition into reality by creating a heritage-led transformation of Europe and of the entire European project! Every person living and every organisation working in Europe must contribute to this crucial task.

Prof. Dr. Hermann Parzinger ist Archäologe, Historiker und Experte für kulturelles Erbe. Seit 2008 ist er Präsident der Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz. Im Jahr 2018 wurde er zum Exekutivpräsidenten von Europa Nostra gewählt, der führenden Bürgerbewegung zum Schutz und zur Würdigung des europäischen Kultur- und Naturerbes.


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