On 19th April Tibor Navracscis, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, announced that the European Commission will present a proposal to the European Parliament and the European Council to make 2018 the European Year of Cultural Heritage. At a time when Europe is faced with economic and social crises, with euroscepticism, violent extremism and a focus on national interests which threatens our desire to be part of a shared future, and at a time when our fundamental values are undermined by cynicism and indifference, this proposal to turn to cultural heritage as a means of re-connecting with a common past, and to envisage a shared future based on culture, is extremely welcome.

In France, economic pressures are resulting in the valuable built heritage and historical landscape of small and medium-sized towns falling into disrepair, and combating this is one of the challenges we face. The prime minister Manuel Valls has entrusted Yves Dauge with a mission to “draw up the framework of a national plan to support the designation of new protected spaces” so that “historical areas can be the instruments of regional revitalisation, social inclusion and the fight against urban sprawl”.

The Cultural Encounter Centres are meeting these challenges through linking heritage issues with the dynamics of creativity and the artists and thinkers of our own time. This is why the ACCR, already a member of the European Heritage Alliance 3.3, has joined the 2030 European Alliance for Culture and the Arts – the aim of which is to give greater voice to artists and performers. This is an opportunity for us to make the link between the two worlds of heritage and culture – worlds which sit alongside each other, complement each other and which together, united, can forge an even stronger alliance for culture, tolerance and a better quality of life for us all.