The EESC fully supports the designation of 2018 as the European Year of Cultural Heritage and commends all efforts by promoters and organisers at all levels to increase visibility and celebrate Europe's diverse and rich cultural heritage.
The EESC encourages all stakeholders and participants to adopt the widest possible definition of culture and to be inclusive of all citizens.
This year should not only be a celebration of the past, but should also promote evolving, new and challenging expressions of human inspiration and skill that often arise out of the traditions embedded in each country's rural cultural heritage.
The EESC welcomes the European Commission's proposed commitment to culture in its draft budget of May 2018 and its commitments through the New Agenda for Culture.
Rural Cultural Heritage with all its richness and diversity should be formally recognised for its intrinsic artistic value and its economic and social contribution to the wellbeing of all European citizens.
Existing EU funding streams, including the Rural Development Programme should increasingly see culture as of horizontal value and should support cultural projects, including those protecting, promoting and enhancing biodiverse landscapes.
The contribution of farm open days, school rural visits, shows, craft and other fairs and cultural festivals help urban citizens to better understand and appreciate rural areas and deserve public funding support as do measures to build bridges between rural and urban citizens through cultural projects.
Measures to introduce rural culture and traditions to new generations through innovative modern idioms should be encouraged and the economic and social benefit measured, with good practice shared and celebrated.
The serious loss of craft skills needs to be addressed through increased investment in training, so that intergenerational transfers occur building on past knowledge and encouraging innovation.
Rural cultural heritage should be promoted sustainably for the purposes of tourism, among other things, so that urban citizens can learn to appreciate the cultural values of rural areas and increasingly opt for rural homes and work in remoter settlements.
Marketing of rural cultural produce, including gastronomic heritage, should be promoted and geographically-branded status protected, giving assurance on quality and traceability to citizens.
Some EUR 8 million were allocated to the Year following Trilogue negotiations between the European Parliament and Council in 2017.It would be fair to expect that a quantifiable proportion of this support was available to rural areas.
Urgent action is required on connectivity of transport and digital infrastructure which is essential for settlement in rural areas and for the development of cultural tourism.