Opening Conference for the 50th Anniversary of the European Cultural Convention
9-10 December 2004
Awards Ceremony for Five Cultural Routes
9 December 2004
“The Pyrenean Iron” Route
Presentation by Ms Carmen SALA
Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Andorra to the Council of Europe
(To be checked against delivered speech)
Ladies and gentlemen,
As the Andorran ambassador, it is my great honour to accept this certification for the Pyrenean Iron Route.
The industrial heritage activities carried out to promote the identity of the Pyrenees have contributed to the regeneration of some of Europe’s old industrial regions. Industrial culture and tourism contribute not only to efforts to salvage old buildings and structures but also to the conservation of the environment and the cultural landscape.
For some years now, the restoration of industrial heritage has often been tied up with regional development plans. The history of technology, the rediscovery of the skills of the old craft trades and the redeployment of industrial sites help us to understand more about our closest surroundings. Rehabilitating our industrial heritage by establishing a cross-border cultural route like this Pyrenean Iron Route is a way for us to understand the history of our people and the iron-making techniques that have been used throughout our history.
The aim of this cross-border iron route is to study, restore, preserve and display the industrial heritage of the Pyrenees so that the public at large can see the mines, charcoal kilns, miners’ and iron workers’ homes and ironworks, consult the archives on the subject, and ultimately, be introduced to one of the most important economic activities ever to develop, spanning the period from the early 17th to the late 19th century.
“The routes are a vehicle, drawing on the same subject matter to bring together neighbouring regions”. With this in mind, our route covers not only the Principality of Andorra, but also the French regions of Midi-Pyrénées and Aquitaine as well as Catalonia and the Basque Country, while not forgetting institutions and sites such as the provincial councils of Bizkaia and Guipúzcoa, the Lenbur Foundation, the Bizkaia bridge, the Science and Technology Museum of Catalonia, Cercs Mines, the Council of the département of l’Ariège, and the Association Fer et Savoir Faire.
All the existing routes focusing on the iron industry were grouped under the same umbrella, forming a cross-border route on iron which attempts at all times to follow the main guidelines traced out by the European Institute of Cultural Routes. It was our joint decision to baptise this route the Pyrenean Iron Route.
Over the long term, we will be following Council of Europe recommendations and working in very close conjunction with the European Institute of Cultural Routes to incorporate this route into the European Network of Cultural Routes, ultimately making it an integral part of the European Industrial Heritage Route. Contacts have already been established with various bodies in the United Kingdom, Spain, Finland, France, Italy, Sweden, Ireland, Portugal, Germany and Slovakia, which are also interested in incorporating their industrial heritage projects into the Council of Europe-sponsored routes.
The aim is to work together on an industrial heritage cultural route through a system of federated routes encompassing all related projects. This means that our route would be combined with other existing routes such as the European Iron Trail, a project in which Austria, Slovakia and Poland pooled their efforts and combined each of their local trails to establish one big cross-border route.
I would like to take advantage of this opportunity, speaking on behalf of all the associates who made this route possible, to thank the Council of Europe once again, and the European Institute of Cultural Routes in particular, for the honour they do us by awarding us this certification.
I would like to conclude, if I may, with a quotation from two of the leading experts on industrial heritage in Europe, Louis Bergeron and Gracia Dorel Ferré, in which they insist on the value of projects like this one.
“The public at large and local decision-makers can be convinced of the worth of an industrial site as a subject to be studied by specialists. It is much more difficult to get people to accept that an industrial relic is a part of our memory, affecting an entire population, of benefit for all of us today and for generations to come”.