The European Union impacts on cultural heritage in a number of ways. Many of its policies and laws, often implemented in the UK by local authorities, apply to this sector. Furthermore, the available EU funding that can be tapped into for this area of work still runs to millions of pounds.
In addition to the EU, Conventions are developed and agreed between the parties in the Council of Europe. These include the European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Valletta), the European Convention on the Protection of Architectural Heritage (Granada) and the European Landscape Convention (Florence).
Approximately 60% of the UK’s legislation originates from Brussels, and for the environment this rises to 80%, so it is worth understanding relevant policy areas. In many cases local authorities are the responsible agency for implementing much of EU legislation, particularly as regards waste, air pollution and even sometimes planning- related issues. Policy issues from the EU affecting cultural heritage/the historic environment include:
- Environmental Impact Assessment Directive
- Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment Directive
- The Habitats Directive
- Directive on Environmental Liability
- The Landfill Directive
- Spatial planning
- VAT regulations
- Employment law and recognition of qualifications
- State aid rules
- Public procurement law
- CAP (partly the agri-environment provisions)
- Many environmental directives dealing with pollutants and other issues.
This is by no means a definitive list and it is not possible to produce a guide to all these policies because directives are constantly being brought forward and revised, and other policies developed.
The European Commission’s annual work programme is a useful guide to what is likely to come forward and can be found on the main EU web site under the General Secretariat.
State aid policy is quite complicated. There is a de minimis provision under which state aid does not have to be declared. The limit currently is €200,000 for any one beneficiary over a period of three years.
For public procurement policy expert guidance is generally necessary for large building projects. VAT, is problematic because of the punitively high rate for repairs and maintenance to buildings.
Members of European Parliament
MEPs are elected once every five years, the most recent European election was in 2009. They do not represent constituencies. A number of MEPs are elected for each region. MEPs are not able to influence decisions on funding projects, (this would been seen as improper), but they have substantial powers over the EU budget as a whole, and are able to give helpful advice on many matters and assist with useful contacts.
Details of UK MEPs for each UK region and how to contact them can be obtained from the UK Information Office of the European Parliament, at 2 Queen Anne’s Gate, London SW1A 1AA, telephone 020 7227 4300.
Information and Advice
Some of the European Commission Directorates put out free newsletters, increasingly electronic ones. It is relatively simple to subscribe. Web sites of different Directorates-General can be found by following the links in the European Commission general web site.
If you are interested in a particular piece of EU legislation and wish to follow its progress it is possible to register for a free information updating service known as Legislative Observatory. Web site for registration is http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/home/home.do.
Many local authorities subscribe to the EIS – European Information Service. This is a monthly journal produced from the Local Government Information Bureau in London. For local authorities the cost is approximately £155 plus VAT at the time of writing, for one copy of each issue.
European Information Service
Local Government H ouse
London SW1P 3HZ
Tel 020 7664 3100
Fax 020 7664 3128
In the UK, there are numerous consultancies offering specialised information, such as the non-profit Institute for European Environment Policy.
For cultural policy and some information on structural funds, there is the UK cultural contact point, Visiting Arts.