On 12 November 2020, Portuguese Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Sandra Pereira of The Left group in the European Parliament – GUE/NGL posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“At a meeting of Portuguese associations for the protection of the heritage, I was told about the all too frequent destruction of archaeological heritage for the exploitation of agricultural land. Although, in some cases, such destruction is intentional (as happened recently in Évora, where a dolmen was destroyed so that almonds could be produced on the land, or in Cuba, where a Roman bridge was destroyed, or in Beja, where the Roman Villa of Pisões was demolished) and the profits generated are more highly prized than the heritage site itself, there are cases where this occurs because of a lack of owner awareness, which goes to show that a comprehensive archaeological survey needs to be carried out. Only then do small landowners recognise the value of monuments found on their land and are they able reconcile agricultural activity with archaeological findings. And, moreover, when a heritage site becomes well-known, it is valued and protected.
In the light of the above:
1. What kind of support can be provided for archaeological surveys and subsequent work, especially in areas where there are many other well-known archaeological remains?
2. What steps can be taken in conjunction with the Member States to raise awareness so that the public recognise the value of these monuments and become involved in their upkeep? Would the Commission be willing to finance this action?”
On 19 January 2021, Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “The Commission regards the safeguarding of all forms of cultural heritage with the utmost importance. However, in accordance with Article 167 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, action by the EU is limited to encouraging cooperation between Member States and supporting and supplementing their action, inter alia, with a view to conserving and safeguarding cultural heritage of European significance. Therefore, the upkeep, protection, conservation and renovation of cultural heritage are primarily a national responsibility.
The EU is committed to enhancing Europe’s cultural heritage through a number of programmes, which can help to support cultural cooperation, regional and local development as well as entrepreneurship or research in the field of cultural heritage. Information about EU-funded programmes that support cultural heritage can be found on the Commission’s website.
In addition, rural development programmes funded by European agricultural fund for rural development (EAFRD) can support studies and investments associated with the maintenance, restoration and upgrading of the cultural and rural heritage, as well as awareness actions. Leader local action groups can offer further support involving local communities and taking into account local needs and priorities.
The EU also manages the European Heritage Label, which promotes sites that have played a significant role in the history, culture and development of the EU, through information and educational activities. The pre-selection of sites for the attribution of the label takes place under the responsibility of the Member States.”
Photo Credit : https://pixabay.com/photos/temple-columnar-antique-ruin-3416993/