As a member of the European Union, Ireland’s cultural heritage and historic preservation policies are impacted by transnational policies and initiatives from the European Commission. A wide range of heritage-related areas are impacted by EU membership, including agriculture, agritourism, natural heritage, fisheries, environmental policies, rural development, education, and languages. This is in addition to the cultural heritage policies and programs put in place by the EU.
The Maastricht Treaty set out policies relating to the cultural heritage of EU member states, including:
- Contributing to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity and at the same time bringing the common cultural heritage to the fore
- Encouraging cooperation between Member States, and supporting action in the following areas: improvement of knowledge and dissemination of the culture and history of European peoples; conservation and safeguarding of cultural heritage of European significance; non-commercial cultural exchanges; artistic and literary creation
The current European Agenda for Culture sets out to “address common challenges” among EU member states, including “promoting cultural diversity, protecting cultural heritage, easing obstacles to the mobility of cultural professionals, and supporting the contribution of cultural and creative industries to boosting growth and jobs across the EU.”
The current EU Work Plan for Culture sets out four main priorities: Accessible and inclusive culture; Cultural heritage; Cultural and creative sectors: creative economy and innovation; Promotion of cultural diversity, culture in EU external relations, and mobility.
There are several layers to the EU policies and programs on cultural heritage. One strand promotes projects that encompass several Member States as well as other international organizations. The Creative Europe Culture Sub-Program has provided €13.7 million in funding to projects with Irish partners and €2 million to Irish-led projects to date. The projects range widely from the National Museum of Ireland and UCD partnered-project, CEMEC (Connecting Early Medieval European Collections) to the Follow the Vikings project in which Dublinia and Waterford Treasures at the Granary are partners, to many other projects promoting creativity, the arts, and cultural heritage. The full list of Irish-participant projects is here.
Another strand invests in regional development, including through support of innovation and research, the digital agenda, support for small and medium-sized enterprises, and the low-carbon economy. Along with projects in other areas of regional development, the EU helped fund projects at Lough Key, Cork’s Triskel Christchurch Arts Centre, the House of Waterford Crystal, and other investments in Irish towns and cities. Find the list of Irish projects here.
The European Union has many other programs and policies which have the potential to impact cultural heritage preservation in Ireland, especially through cultural exchanges and transnational projects, and it is interesting to think about how cultural heritage is interwoven into the layers of EU policies which apply to Ireland.
Valerie C. Fletcher, “The European Union and Heritage,” in The Heritage of Ireland, ed. Neil Buttimer, Colin Rynne, and Helen Guerin (Cork: Collins, 2000).