2018 has been the European Year of Cultural Heritage. With a motto “Past meets the Future”, it has been a year that has successfully acknowledged and reinforced that cultural heritage lies at the heart of European life, reflecting a Europe of multiple and diverse peoples, wonderful achievements in cultural heritage and a long and often troubled history.
It has been recognised that Cultural Heritage must now become a central part of European social and political policy and inform a strong and innovative agenda for the future.
The European Association of Archaeologists was proud to be chosen as a member of the Stakeholder Committee that partnered the European Commission in the planning, promotion and realisation of EYCH 2018. Our voice and contribution was recognized and it gave us the opportunity and responsibility to award events with the EYCH labels.
EAA has used this position, as a privilege and opportunity to vindicate Archaeology in the context of the EYCH and to promote Cultural Heritage generally at professional, social and political level. We advocate for heritage in all its myriad forms, from the intangible values of our vast variety of cultural traditions to our rich resources of architecture, monuments, landscapes and material cultural objects. Archaeology has the capacity to integrate them all in its study of their multiple material processes.
Archaeological understanding and practice can also demonstrate how Cultural Heritage mediates the passage of culture from the Past into the Future, how individuals meet communities, how communities meet societies, how societies meet together, and how Cultural Heritage helps to reconcile the many challenges of European modernity.
In this special year we have demonstrated the social, economic and political importance of Cultural Heritage. We have supported the dedicated programme for its promotion and the call for a central and embedded position for Cultural Heritage in social policy and political agendas, ranging from economic and social cohesion policy to spatial planning, structural development, education and science.
This must be the continuing legacy of the EYCH. It will also underpin the EAA’s future policy and work in the coming years.
The EYCH is not only about past cultural heritage and its legacies, but a Europe that is continually creating its heritage. There is a recognition now that Europe’s past and living cultural heritages underpin its future in a fundamental way. European policy now seeks to use this concept to create the foundations for setting a new and innovative long term agenda for Europe.
The year has had a high profile and has been a singular success. It has demonstrated how many Europeans care about Cultural Heritage. In the 2019 European Parliamentary elections, the European Association of Archaeologists together with National Partners will be is issuing benchmarks for Archaeology and Cultural Heritage during these elections.
The benchmarks will prompt politicians to position themselves in policies and political topics concerning Cultural Heritage; encourage and allow civil society to make informed decisions at the voting both; and hold politicians accountable for promises they make during elections.
We live in dynamic political times when new political developments in many European countries will fundamentally influence our lives as Europeans in the future, whatever our nationality. Our past assumptions are being disputed and challenged. Many of the established pillars of the European Union are being rocked. It will not only naive but irresponsible to deny that there are serious risks in the socio-political arena that challenge the standards of what is understood as the European social model. While this is a concern, we must embrace the future with confidence in our abilities.
Archaeology has got the capacity to reflect on how past futures came into existence. As archaeologists our task is to apply this principle in our daily work, and use it for the benefit of our profession and our societies.