Only three of the seven political groups in the European Parliament positioned themselves regarding the benchmarks sent to them. Substantial responses were received from the European Peoples Party (EEP), the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) and the pan-European party Volt which is part of the Greens-European Free Alliance (EFA) group. Renew Europe replied that it was unable to respond within the given time frame and did not answer at all anymore when the deadline was extended by four weeks. The German Green Party had realised that their European political group – Greens-EFA – had been contacted. Still, they felt unable to say whether their national response (see DGUF’s evaluation for Germany) would be the same or at least similar to that on the group level. It is alarming to see that the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (S&D), Identity and Democracy and The Left in the European Parliament (GUE-NGL) never reacted to any of the emails sent to their candidates, Secretary Generals and organisational addresses.

Below the original responses by the political groups are summed up and commented. In doubt, we recommend consulting the original version.

Benchmark I: Addressing Climate Change Challenges for Cultural Heritage

EPP points out that it is committed to the European Green Deal and claims to have been the driving force behind key policies to accelerate the rollout of renewables and the reduction of CO emissions, including the strengthened Renewable Energy Directive and the EU Emissions Trading System. EPP intends to further develop the European Green Deal with the future climate target plan that the European Commission presented in February 2024. As part of this process, which intends to reach a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, EPP will consider all relevant aspects including those related to heritage at risk. Regarding heritage protection, the EPP mentions no concrete measures of implementation.

EPP also mentions the Water Framework Directive with its two daughter directives on groundwater and surface water quality and quantity. This aspect was not part of the benchmark question but can be seen as an additional tool that could come in handy when lobbying for monuments related to historic water management.

VOLT wants to socially shape the path to climate neutrality and protect cultural heritage. It does not mention any specific measures. VOLT emphasises the importance of existing European initiatives (e.g. standard EN17652:2022; Malta Convention) and supports them. In addition, VOLT would like to shape knowledge about cultural heritage more than before in the sense of “open public data” so that citizens know more about it than before, can exchange information about it and participate in it.

ECR points out that climate change affects different regions of the European Union in different ways. The ECR advocates sensible and sustainable measures that do not impose costly and unnecessary burdens on our societies. The same approach can be applied to the preservation of cultural heritage. All efforts in this area must take account of local specificities. It is up to the national and regional authorities to take measures to preserve the cultural heritage in accordance with the needs and characteristics of the local heritage. In this respect, ECR believes that the principle of subsidiarity must be applied and that any legislative initiatives must be taken at the level closest to the citizens and the sites concerned. From ECR’s point of view counteracting climate change and preserving the cultural heritage seems not a priority or if then not at the European but at the regional and national levels.

Benchmark II: Protecting the Historic Environment in Planning

Regarding the EIA Directive, EPP will take into consideration the conclusions of the EU Commission once the first reporting exercise – which was due in 2023 – is finalised. This can lead to updates and adjustments to ensure coordinated implementation across the Member States. EPP sees the duty to implement the European Landscape Convention (ELC) solely with the Member States that signed it. For EPP the EU doesn’t play a role in this, while the ELC is mentioned explicitly in the EIA Directive.

VOLT intends to launch a campaign to ensure that the “ELC” European Landscape Convention is ratified and comprehensively enforced throughout Europe, i.e. that it is also incorporated into national and possibly federal legislation. They cite specific regulations which they support, and which primarily serve to protect the environment. They do not specify concrete solutions to the problems identified in Benchmark II.

ECR believes that the relationship between historic landscape protection and planning permissions doesn't have to be one of dichotomy or conflict of interest. ECR acknowledges that in many countries there are mitigation measures in the current legislation. Ultimately, ECR wants to strike the right balance between the protection of historic landscapes and archaeological sites and the planning permissions that are granted. ECR sees it necessary to ensure that the term "overriding public interest" is not used loosely and that any project that falls under the case-by-case assessment regime is thoroughly assessed in terms of its impact. Here, ECR does not offer clear answers to the problems raised in Benchmark II

Benchmark III: Addressing the Trade in Archaeological Material

EPP welcomes the Regulation on the import of cultural goods agreed in 2019 which for the first time sets clear rules and prohibitions on the import of goods that were illicitly removed from the country they were created or discovered. EPP believes the EU Member States themselves should continuously ensure that penalties under this Regulation are robust and effective in order to help prevent and prosecute the trafficking of cultural goods. EPP here sees this clearly as a duty of the Member States and not of the EU. The topic of “metal detecting” which is mentioned in Benchmark III is not discussed.

VOLT would like to strengthen and improve the existing regulations against the illegal trade in antiquities based on the Malta Convention and take measures to prevent the private ownership of archaeological objects. Volt does not address the topic of “metal detecting” explicitly mentioned in Benchmark III.

ECR intends to encourage EU Member States to implement the metal-detecting commitments they have made under the made under the Valetta Treaty. ECR thinks that financial resources should be made available to the authorities for the implementation, monitoring and enforcement of a metal detecting licensing and licensing and registration system. While ECR addresses “metal detecting”, the group doesn’t explain how it would fight illegal trade in antiques.

Benchmark IV: Facilitating Mobility of Labour Across Borders

EPP supports the idea of a first academic degree in countries that do not have one yet, but at the same time, they emphasise that education is a competence of member states where the EU has a supporting and coordinating role. EPP does not aim for the standardisation of university degrees but for mutual recognition of learning outcomes. The EPP Group claims to have been supporting the initiative of a Joint European Degree (label) from the very first start.

EPP says it has supported that Erasmus+ doubled its financial portfolio and the Creative Europe programme increased over 30% in the current Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF 2021-27). EPP thinks young archaeologists and professionals should take advantage of the opportunities given by Erasmus + and points out that the standing rapporteur for Erasmus + Programme in the European Parliament is Milan Zver from EPP.

EPP also mentions the Creative Europe (Culture Strand) programme that not only supports a wide range of cultural and creative sectors including architecture and cultural heritage but also includes a mobility scheme for artists and professionals.

Furthermore, EPP stresses the importance of international standards for the sustainable protection and development of cultural heritage. They also find it necessary to further develop such standards.

Summarising one can say that EPP is aware of several schemes that help students and the creative sector to study and do projects in other EU Member States, but it does not really support measures that really would allow for a free mobility of archaeological labour across the EU.

VOLT supports a first academic degree (under the Bologna system) for archaeology in countries that do not yet have such a degree and aims to standardize archaeological university degrees and/or other professional qualifications. However, VOLT emphasizes that local/regional knowledge in archaeology is important and EU-wide harmonizations must not jeopardize this.

ECR supports national sovereignty autonomy in matters of cultural heritage. and opposes the standardisation of laws, policies, and practices across Europe.

Benchmark V: Free Use of Images Related to Cultural Heritage

EPP argues that the transposition period of the Copyright Directive only ended on 7 June 2021 and the review of the Directive is only planned for 7 June 2026. Therefore, it appears premature for the EPP at this stage to decide about any additional proposals to extend the list of exceptions and/or adjust the current EU legal framework.

Traditionally, EPP says it is in favour of strong protection of authors' rights and, therefore, is reluctant to re-open the discussions on the currently existing exceptions or limitations to copyright protection. EPP would prefer proper monitoring of the implementation of the Copyright Directive in order to identify potential shortcomings.

VOLT would like to achieve free licensing of images of objects, historical records and plans in collections, such as CC BY, which should be free of charge for academic open-access publications. VOLT will launch an initiative to harmonize legislation and practice in all EU countries. They refer to their “Policy Portfolio” point 5, where this is already programmatically called for.

ECR supports the free licensing of images of objects and historical records, provided that the intellectual property rights of photographers and/or institutions in such images and reproductions are not infringed. This is particularly true in the case of highly specialised imaging and scanning using modern technology, where the process is lengthy and expensive. ECR wants to prevent the misuse of such images. ECR does not acknowledge the specific problem with pictures of cultural heritage in public institutions as raised by benchmark V.

Comment on the EAA EU Election traffic lights

To give readers and potential voters with a special interest in archaeology and cultural heritage a quick overview we provide them with an election table with simple traffic light symbols: green = from the perspective of the EAA benchmarking group good position for archaeology and cultural heritage, yellow = not ideal, but tolerable and red = unsatisfactory, detrimental or no response. This classification of course is subjective and necessarily coarse-grained. Rather than as a direct election recommendation, this is meant to help sort the political groups according to their responsiveness and demonstrated expertise. It also can help to decide which response one would like to consult in the original.

EAA – Election traffic light for the EU Elections 2024