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.



Future for Religious Heritage - FRH Torch

Inspired by the Olympic Torch of Athens, FRH has launched the “Torch of Heritage and Culture” initiative, to raise awareness and safeguard the importance of Europe’s rich religious heritage. The FRH Torch is a memory treasure box, containing personal letters from prominent members of the international community but also from European citizens themselves. These letters, contributed during an official Torch ceremony held at various events all over Europe, describe personal memories and stories relating to religious heritage.

WHEN? Launched on 8 January in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, the Torch will travel Europe until 11 October 2018, finishing its journey at the FRH Conference in Paris.

WHERE? The FRH Torch will be hosted at a number of events all over Europe. In order to learn more about its location, discover the route of the Torch.

HOW? The FRH Torch is a treasure box full of personal stories related to religious heritage, from politicians, artists, scientists, European citizens, as well as refugees.

But what is FRH Torch?

The FRH Torch of Heritage and Culture is a metaphor, it is a well of memories, which combined are a testimony to the universal nature of European culture. The FRH Torch is a memory treasure box, containing personal, often handwritten letters from prominent members of the international community but also from European citizens themselves. These letters, contributed during an official Torch ceremony held at various events all over Europe, describe personal memories and stories relating to religious heritage.

Afterwards we wandered around the church grounds and read the names and dates upon the gravestones. At the back a lovely view opens up onto fields and pastures. The church sits on a hillock, or wierden, which granted us this view. […] One cannot simply do with heritage what one wants. Making use of local religious heritage is not the same as borrowing from other cultures. Because the churches bind heritage materially to a place, they demand a word in any discussion about the meaning of religion.
By Todd H. Weir, Director, Centre for Religion and Heritage, University of Groningen

After all this we went back to Sadad, to find everything destroyed and vandalized, that did not break it or its residents, people stood by, helped and supported each other and within three months Sadad was standing again, and celebrated Christmas and New Year’s with tears and smiles and a great intention to rebuild everything the terrorism has desecrated.
By Anas Hannoun, musician, Syrian refugee


Who can contribute?

Everyone! FRH has invited prominent politicians, artists, professors and spiritual leaders to participate in this initiative. Among the first contributors were the Deputy Minister of Culture of the Province of Friesland Johannes Kramer, Professor Todd Weir, University of Groningen, Reverend Edna Zwerver and Anas Hannoun, musician and Syrian refugee.

However, we welcome all contributors. Every memory is equally important, as they all add up to the sense of community built around religious heritage. We would be very happy to receive your own story and to publish it on our website. To submit your letter, click here.


Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

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

With the launch of the Strategy 21 website, now is the time for policymakers, stakeholders and citizens to get involved and make a difference in the way heritage is managed.

Strategy 21 offers you recommendations and concrete courses of action as part of its three components: Social; Territorial and Economic Development; and Knowledge and Education. Explore the website to find out how you can apply recommendations to overcome challenges in your local area.

Recommendations are supported by examples of good practices for you to gain inspiration from the ideas and experiences of others from across Europe. Do you have an initiative that applies the recommendations of Strategy 21 and want to share your knowledge for the benefit of others? If yes, please Submit your entry today!

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

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

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

The ERIH-Event celebrating the European Year of Cultural Heritage, "WORK it OUT"

Where was the world's first factory? Where was the largest steam engine built? And where can you find the most up-to-date colliery of its time? Industrialisation changed the face of Europe. Consequently it has left us a rich industrial heritage. A gigantic network of sites spread all over Europe. It only has to be brought back to life -which is what the European Route of Industrial Heritage (ERIH) is doing. Come with us on an exciting journey of discovery to the most important sites in Europe's industrial history.

What is ERIH?

The ERIH network was developed in the years 2003 to 2008 by eleven project partners, supported by the European Union. For the continuation of the network´s work, in February 2008 ERIH founded a registered association based on German law named ERIH-European Route of Industrial Heritage e.V.. Since that time the number of members increased from 17 founder members to more than 250 members from 24 European countries. 

Members of ERIH are industrial heritage sites, public or private organisations, corporate members and individuals. You can also support the ERIH network by becoming a "Friend of ERIH". 


This May 1st was a very special one: ‚WORK it OUT‘ made young people all around Europe dance - in celebration of our shared European industrial heritage. From Norway to Spain and from Belgium to Bulgaria, 32 ERIH sites were part of the event.

What was the programme like?

The day focused on the electronic dance performance ‚WORK it OUT - Day of Industrial Heritage‘, composed by 17-year-old musicians Paul Fanger and Paul Ostarek – Paul & Friends – and based on Beethoven's European anthem ‚Ode to Joy‘. The choreography of Hai Truong, dance studio Groove Dance Classes, translates repetitive movements of former workers into modern dance moves.

This kind of ‚industrial dance‘ did inspire children and particularly young people, who were the main target audience of ‚WORK it OUT‘ since it’s them who transfer the industrial heritage to the next generation. For them the dance performance was an opportunity to experience the legacy of the industrial age in a creative way – not only as a cool location but also as part of their own culture.

Over the past few weeks more than 3,000 children and young people have rehearsed ‚WORK it OUT‘ intensively. On 1 May at 3 pm sharp, they started to dance in smaller or larger groups, many of them dressed in black and equipped with the blue ‚WORK it OUT‘ cap as emblem and part of the performance. The participating ERIH locations combined the ERIH event with further visitor attractions.



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


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)


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.