The European Heritage Label

Labour Party

Today the European Parliament will be having a final vote on the European Heritage Label.  This will be the report’s second reading.  I wrote about it almost a year ago when we had the first vote in the Parliament, which you can read about here.  I want to congratulate my colleague, Chrysoula Paliadeli, on writing this report and getting it through the Parliament.  I know how much work it must have been and the end product is one that she can be proud of.

Last night was the debate where I spoke in favour of the Label.  You can watch the video by following the link here.

The Hungarian Presidency addresses the Culture and Education Committee

Labour Party

MEPs have during this week listened to the Hungarian Presidency outlining their priorities for the next six months. Yesterday I blogged on the presentation to the Women’s Committee and today I want to look at Culture, Education and Sport.  The practice whereby the presidency in office talks to European Parliament Committees is, I believe, useful providing as it does an opportunity for Committee members to question the national ministers and get a clearer idea of where the Council wants to go.

We were fortunate to have four Hungarian Ministers come to the Culture and Education Committee earlier in the week Attila Czene, Sport;  Rozsa Hoffman, Education; Geza Szocs, Culture and Miklos Soltesz, Social Policy.

The Presidency is organising a number of conferences and events on each of these topics, including one on early years education and care at the end of February at which I am speaking on my report. Early years is one of the Hungarian Presidency’s top priorities which I think is very good news as it’s been neglected for far too long.

At the other end of the age range, I was pleased to see that the Hungarians are promoting sport for senior citizens. Sport Minister Attila Czene is a former Olympic swimming champion so I expect to see more strong sport initiatives.

Moving on to culture, Mr Szocs talked about the Presidency’s support for the European Heritage Label legislation and for our S&D rapporteur Chrysoulou Paliadeli. He also told us how Hungary will continue the work to protect minors online. However, we did not get anything further from him on the new media legislation and the perception that Hungary is stamping out media pluralism.

Last but by no means least we heard from the Minister for Social Policy, Miklos Soltesz. As you nay expect her was particularly interested in the European Year of Volunteering and hoped that active participation in society may help to bring down youth unemployment.

I would like to thank the Hungarian Ministers for their presentations. They were all well-informed and took the concerns raised by the Committee seriously. However, I fear the media question will dominate unless the concerns of the European Parliament are taken on board by the Hungarian Parliament. I can only hope this will happen so we will be able to work together n a reasonable and constructive way.

The New European Heritage Label

Labour Party

Today the European Parliament voted through a report that will establish a blue plaque system for sites of European historical significance.  The idea is to create a better understanding of our shared history within the European Union. 

Sites will be selected for their symbolic rather than aesthetic value, and must have links with key European events or personalities.  One of the potential sites in the U.K. that has been discussed so far is Bletchley Park, the site of the British efforts to break the Nazi codes during the Second World War. 

The scheme will be entirely voluntary for member states, with each being able to select a maximum of two sites to be considered per year. Only one, at most, will ultimately be granted the label.

During the debate before the vote today I spoke in favour of the bill.  I believe there are a number of advantages to the scheme in my opinion.  Firstly, it is very cheap, costing the EU very little and almost nothing for the individual member states, literally nothing if they choose not to participate.  Secondly, I think it’s important for us to gain a better understanding of our shared history; the events and people that made Europe what it is today.  I look forward to seeing the first sites submitted for consideration, I think it could be very interesting.

I would like to congratulate my fellow S&D colleague, Chrysoula Paliadeli, who was the rapporteur and has worked very hard to produce an excellent and constructive report.

New European Heritage Label will be as successful as Culture Capital Scheme

Labour Party

Yesterday the Culture and Education Committee decided to give the go ahead for a report on a European Heritage Label – a version of the European Capital of Culture for historic sites.

The proposal is for a pan-European scheme to reward sites of special European significance with a European Heritage Label.  The sites, chosen by EU member states, would symbolise European history and ideals.  Participation would be voluntary, though obviously we would hope that all the countries of the EU would take part.

Each country would be able to nominate two sites a year for the Label and a panel would then chose one from each member state for the award itself.  This means, assuming all EU countries were in the scheme, there would be 27 European Heritage Label sites per year.  

The idea is for those running and involved in the sites to get together, and for the European Heritage Label to base itself on the very successful European Capital of Culture scheme, now in its 25th year.

Seventeen EU countries already have a version of what is now being proposed at EU level, so this proposal will build on what already exists rather than re-inventing the wheel.  Most of the costs would be borne by individual EU countries with the EU centrally only carrying out basic administrative tasks.  EU staff would be redeployed to carry out this work; there are no plans for increasing expenditure.

As a Londoner, I see the Heritage Label as a kind of European Blue Plaque with the added value of European networking for those people and organisations who take part.  It’s an excellent idea, the kind of thing which gives a boost to sites of special interest and adds a bit of life and colour to the areas concerned.  It should also encourage tourism and therefore have economic as well as cultural value.