Heritage Initiatives in Europe

We strive towards a Europe where the diversity of cultures, the arts, and cultural heritage are essential to the development of a genuine openness of mind and basic rights, and where open and interactive processes and practices of culture that combine to help us deal with the complexities of living with ourselves and one another. 

The European Heritage Days are a joint action of the Council of Europe and the European Commission. Every September, millions of people visit heritage treasures across the 50 States party to the European Cultural Convention. European Heritage Days acknowledges that "cultural heritages are resources on which to develop dialogue, democratic debate and openness between cultures," and seeks to champion these values. This page is a practical guide to the heritage initiatives, policies and programmes in Europe that share the same values which are the foundation of European Heritage Days' mission. Follow the links to find out more.



Strategy 21: European Cultural Heritage Strategy for the 21st century

The European ministers responsible for cultural heritage from the 50 States Parties to the European Cultural Convention met in Namur (Belgium) on 23-24 April 2015 for their 6th Conference entitled “Cultural heritage in the 21st century for living better together. Towards a common strategy for Europe”. The Conference was held in the framework of the Belgian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and concluded with the adoption of the Namur Declaration to define the objectives for a European Heritage Strategy.

This “Strategy 21” redefines the place and role of cultural heritage in Europe and provides guidelines to promote good governance and participation in heritage identification and management, and disseminates innovative approaches to improving the environment and quality of life of European citizens. It sets challenges, recommends actions and highlights best practice to be followed by all actors and stakeholders – governments, local authorities, civil society and professionals. Strategy 21 is based upon and comes in support of existing Council of Europe conventions in the field of heritage, in particular the Faro Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society.


Read more: Strategy 21: European Cultural Heritage Strategy for the 21st century

European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018

Join us in 2018 for the European Year of Cultural Heritage, an unprecedented year of events and celebrations.

Cultural heritage is the fabric of our lives and societies. It surrounds us in the buildings of our towns and cities and is expressed through natural landscapes and archaeological sites.

It is not only made up of literature, art and objects but also by the crafts we learn, the stories we tell, the food we eat and the films we watch.

Cultural heritage brings communities together and builds shared understandings of the places we live in. The digital world too, is transforming the way we access heritage.

The European Year of Cultural Heritage aims to:

  • encourage people to explore Europe's rich and diverse cultural heritage
  • celebrate, understand and protect its unique value
  • reflect on the place that cultural heritage occupies in all our lives

European cultural heritage allows us to understand the past and to look to our future. By highlighting cultural heritage in 2018, we will emphasise:

  • how it builds stronger societies
  • how it creates jobs and prosperity
  • its importance for our relations with the rest of the world
  • what can be done to protect it

Read more here: European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018

Faro Convention Action Plan

The Faro Convention Action Plan is designed to translate the Faro Convention principles into practice.

It aims to illustrate the richness and novelty of the principles of the Faro Convention, as well as providing possibilities for interpretation in relation to current societal challenges. It provides field based knowledge and expertise for member States to better understand the potentials of the Convention; it helps the Secretariat to highlight and study specific cases in line with the political priorities of the Organisation; offers a platform for analysis and recommendations for further steps; and encourages member States to sign and ratify the Convention.

In 2017, the spotlight is on Roma communities, migrant communities, Jewish heritage as well as populism.

Cultural Routes Programme

The Cultural Routes programme was launched by the Council of Europe in 1987. Its objective was to demonstrate, by means of a journey through space and time, how the heritage of the different countries and cultures of Europe contributes to a shared cultural heritage.

The Cultural Routes put into practice the fundamental principles of the Council of Europe: human rights, cultural democracy, cultural diversity and identity, dialogue, mutual exchange and enrichment across boundaries and centuries.

The Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes seeks to reinforce the potential of Cultural Routes for cultural co-operation, sustainable territorial development and social cohesion, with a particular focus on themes of symbolic importance for European unity, history, culture and values and the discovery of less well-known destinations. It helps to strengthen the democratic dimension of cultural exchange and tourism through the involvement of grassroots networks and associations, local and regional authorities, universities and professional organisations. It contributes to the preservation of a diverse heritage through theme-based and alternative tourist itineraries and cultural projects. 

Find out more: Cultural Routes Programme / European Institute of Cultural Routes (EICR)


European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards

The EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards was launched in 2002 by the European Commission and has been organised by Europa Nostra since then. The Prize celebrates and promotes best practices related to heritage conservation, management, research, education and communication.
In this way, it contributes to a stronger public recognition of cultural heritage as a strategic resource for Europe’s society and economy.

The Prize honours every year up to 30 outstanding heritage achievements from all parts of Europe. Up to seven are selected as Grand Prix laureates and one receives the Public Choice Award, chosen in an online poll. All the winners receive a certificate as well as a plaque or trophy. The Grand Prix laureates also receive €10,000 each.


Specialist juries made up of independent experts assess the applications and select the winners in the four categories.

1. Conservation

Outstanding achievements in the conservation, enhancement and adaptation to new uses of cultural heritage.

2. Research

Outstanding research projects which lead to tangible effects in the conservation and enhancement of cultural heritage in Europe.

3. Dedicated service by individuals or organisations

Open to individuals or organisations whose contributions over a long period of time demonstrate excellence in the protection, conservation and enhancement of cultural heritage in Europe

4. Education, training and awareness-raising

Outstanding initiatives related to education, training and awareness-raising in the field of tangible and/or intangible cultural heritage, to promote and/or to contribute to the sustainable development of the environment.

Best achievements

Each year, the most remarkable heritage achievements in Europe are recognised.

Europe’s most prestigious heritage awards scheme is organised by Europa Nostra in collaboration with the European Commission and has the support of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.

Read more here:The EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards


HEREIN: Heritage Network

The HEREIN System is a tool to collect data and information related to financing mechanisms, legislations, documentation systems, integrated conservation strategies and awareness-raising actions among others. This data base is complemented by a unique multilingual HEREIN Thesaurus containing over 500 terms and concepts in the 14 languages presently available.

The HEREIN Network formed by the national coordinators is a tool for dialogue and exchange which facilitates cooperation between ministries and institutions in charge of European heritage management.

HEREIN acts as an ‘observatory’ tool; it follows up the implementation of European heritage conventions, the evolution of policies and the strengthening of the values of heritage for society as a factor of intercultural dialogue and improvement of living conditions.

HEREIN brings together public administrations from 42 Member States responsible for national policies in the field of cultural heritage. It is supported by Voluntary Contributions from several countries and by the "HEREIN AISBL" association.

Find out more:  HEREIN System

Convention on Offences relating to Cultural Property

The Council of Europe is currently working on a new Convention on Offences relating to Cultural Property, which will supersede the previous “Delphi” Convention of 1985. The work is being carried out in close collaboration with various international organisations, including UNIDROIT, UNESCO, UNODC and the European Union.

At the 6th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Cultural Heritage held in 2015 in Namur, Ministers condemned ‘the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage and the illicit trafficking of cultural property’ and decided to ‘reinforce European cooperation’ in this field, leading to a Committee of Ministers' decision to draft a new Convention.

The criminal law provisions contained in the draft Convention cover:

  • Theft and other forms of unlawful appropriation
  • Unlawful excavation and removal
  • Illegal exportation and illegal importation
  • Acquisition
  • Placing on the market
  • Falsification of documents
  • Destruction and damage

The new Convention will provide for wide-reaching preventive measures, both at domestic and international level (e.g. inventories or databases of cultural property; monitoring and reporting of transactions; import and export control procedures). It will seek to ensure transnational co-operation to stop the trade in so-called blood antiquities.

Find out more:  Convention on Offences relating to Cultural Property

Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe

The Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe is a unique public information and monitoring service.

It has been run by the Council of Europe as a joint venture with the ERICarts Institute since 1998, and is realised in partnership with national governments and a network of leading European cultural policy experts.

At the touch of a button, Compendium users can compile single country profile reports on a range of topics depicting how arts and culture are organised in 43 Council of Europe member States. Comparative country profile reports can also be assembled.

he Compendium Community of cultural policy experts monitors the implementation of:

  • European Treaties in the Cultural Sector
  • Developments in National Laws and Policies

Find out more: Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe /  World wide cultural policy database

Culture and Digitisation

Digitisation is profoundly changing our cultural experience, not only in terms of new technology-based access, production and dissemination, but also in terms of participation and creation, and learning and partaking in a knowledge society.

Digitisation must be accompanied by enlightened cultural policies, if opportunities for access and participation, individual and collective creativity are to be fully used. The 2013 Ministerial Conference on Culture highlighted the importance of users’ individual and collective needs vis-à-vis digital media. It hinted at risks for European cultural diversity and the need for adequate conditions for cultural content production and creativity in the digital age.

The Council of Europe, in partnership with its member States is dedicating itself to developing such policies by offering a multi-stakeholder platform for the exchange of experience and good practice to policy makers, leading researchers, practitioners and civil society. The platform events produce insights for policy orientations and Council of Europe guidelines to ensure democracy and human rights for citizens in the digital era. A Council of Europe Recommendation on the Internet of Citizens has been issued in February 2016. Its focus is on  (1) the modernization of cultural institutions; (2) the empowerment of citizens as consumers, creators and prosumers and (3) fostering multi-literacy skills education for access to, creation and management of digital culture. 

Two Platform Events were held in Baku (2014) and Linz (2015). The Estonian Government hosted the 3rd Council of Europe Platform Exchange on Culture and Digitisation in Tallinn on 29-30 September 2016 “Culture 4D: Digitisation, Data, Disruptions, Diversity”.

Find out more: Culture and Digitisation