Speech by the Minister of Interior at the launch of the European Cultural Heritage Strategy for the 21st century

It is my pleasant duty, on behalf of the Minister of Interior, Mr Socrates Hasikos, who due to unavoidable commitments could not be with us today, to read his opening speech.

First of all, I would like to welcome you all to this significant conference taking place in Cyprus, an island with a long and vibrant history and an abundance of historical monuments.

I would like to extend a very warm welcome to our distinguished guests from abroad whom I wish a pleasant and memorable stay on our heritage-filled island. I wish you all a successful conference.

I am honoured to welcome you in Limassol, on the occasion of the launch of the European Cultural Heritage Strategy for the 21st century organized in the framework of the Cyprus Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. I wish to extend my greetings to the Council of Europe Secretariat and the European and international institutions, as well as all national representatives and of course our Cypriot colleagues for accepting our invitation and honoring us with their presence.

Heritage is seen as a cultural good, a historic testimony, an educational mean. It is considered to be an economic asset, a development opportunity, an employment generator. It has become a major component for the strategic planning and place branding of cities and regions. It is music, art and fashion.

Heritage needs investment to flourish, but also generates income. It offers unique spaces for human activity of all kinds, and creates irreplaceable settings in cities and settlements. The Republic of Cyprus places heritage preservation high on its agenda. The protection, preservation and promotion of cultural heritage in the political, social and economic level, is seen as necessary not only for the preservation of our cultural identity and collective memory, but also for the rational and sustainable development of our country. Through three different Ministries and their relevant departments, it foresees protection, management and funding activities in the sphere of the built, movable and intangible heritage. It is a fact that regardless of the severe economic crisis of the recent years, funding for heritage has not suffered a big extent of budget restrictions.

The State ensures the protection of cultural heritage through legislation and supports and promotes the rehabilitation of the built heritage through generous subsidies provided to owners by the funding schemes for listed buildings and ancient monuments. It also promotes the utilization of the structural and other funds of the European Union for projects that directly or indirectly respond to the challenge of conservation and reuse of traditional and historical buildings and areas. Such examples include master plans for traditional settlements, rehabilitation of public buildings for community and cultural purposes, renovation of facades, squares and streets in historic squares, and rehabilitation of private vernacular buildings to be used for rural tourism purposes.

The State provides the tools and means for heritage protection. The real actors, however, are the communities, the private owners, the public. This raises the question: Are people interested in heritage? How do we get them involved? In what extent does Governance respond to the public’s wishes? Countries have different models concerning public participation in relation with heritage. In all cases the means to achieve a more democratic model is communication. It is indeed the tool to pass the message of heritage conservation to the wider public, to build an audience, to trigger interest, to educate and to actively participate in heritage safeguarding. The aim of this first presentation of the Strategy to take place in Cyprus today and tomorrow, is to present the trends of heritage and to call member states in cooperation to achieve the common goals.

I hope that you will enjoy this two day event and take with you not only a useful paradigm, but also a memory of the Cypriot heritage, culture and hospitality. I wish you a fruitful conference.

Source: Press and Information Office