Back 12th Annual Advisory Forum on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe

As delivered by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe


A very good afternoon to you all.

Minister of Economic Development and Technology, Poland,

Vice Minister, Lithuania,

Deputy Minister, Czech Republic,

State Secretary, Republic of Moldova,

State Secretary, Poland,


Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,


I begin by thanking the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland,

And my gratitude goes personally to Madam Mayor of Łódź and to you, Deputy Mayor, present here today.

For your strong support to Council of Europe’s Cultural Routes Programme –

And for your enthusiasm, co-operation and warm hospitality in hosting this 12th Annual Advisory Forum.

There could hardly be a better place in which to have it.

Poland bears witness to so many of the historical and cultural trends and transitions in Europe –

Łódź is particularly relevant to the theme of this year’s Forum.

This City has confronted the reality of post-industrial change and transformation head-on.

Following decline of the textile industry –

And the broader economic changes that came with it –

Łódź has worked hard to revitalise its fortunes –

With new shops and restaurants and festivals –

Alongside successful efforts to harness its renowned industrial and art nouveau heritage –

So as to attract businesses and tourists –

And to help revitalise and regenerate the whole city.

That success story is of course just one stop on the European Route of Industrial Heritage –

Which tells the European story of industrialisation and its social, cultural and economic legacy across a total of 27 countries.

This route puts a welcome and strong emphasis on citizen participation and the active involvement of the younger generations.

A good example of this is the flagship initiatives titled “Work it Out” –

Aimed mainly at young people who take part in music and dance performances, while experiencing industrial culture and heritage in an interactive way.

This innovative approach goes to the very heart of what Łódź and the European Route of Industrial Heritage have achieved:

Bringing together heritage and identity with modernity and change –

And harnessing the past as a means to move confidently into the future.

Here today, we must also acknowledge that European culture faces challenges that were not imagined when the Cultural Routes Programme was established in 1987.

Russia’s appalling and completely unacceptable war of aggression against Ukraine continues.

And we know that the bombs, missiles and indiscriminate destruction unleashed by Russia, as well as the looting of historical and cultural artefacts, are a terrible threat also to Ukraine’s rich cultural heritage.

A great deal has been done to ensure justice.

And I am pleased that the Register of Damage –

Designed to ensure Russian accountability for its crimes –

And supported by European leaders in May at our Summit of Heads of State and Government in Reykjavík –

Will play a key role here.

Among the harm, loss and destruction that it will record, damage to cultural heritage sites, monuments, and artifacts will be included.

The Register is a first and necessary step towards a future compensation mechanism –

Separately, we are ever more aware of the threat that climate change poses to Europe’s rich – but sometimes fragile – heritage.

In recent months, we have seen extraordinary developments across our continent –

Deadly and record-breaking heat, fires and floods –

And sadly, all of these may become more frequent and more devastating in the years to come.

In the Council of Europe, we have developed already tools to protect environmental heritage –

And I know that the Mayor of Łódź has been very active on this –

On our side, we have worked to protect landscapes, promote biodiversity and maintain disaster preparedness.

But we need to find new and better ways to ensure that our European heritage is protected and sustainable in the years ahead.

Many of our Cultural Routes have taken that lesson on board –

Encouraging eco-tourism, sustainable development and the protection and promotion of our natural habitat.

So, I hope that in looking at the social and creative dimension of cultural heritage in the current context, this Forum will be a valuable opportunity to share, discuss and learn from the good examples of how cultural heritage can overcome the broad range of challenges that we face today –

And last, but not least, also serve as a rallying point for European creativity and identity.

Finally, I congratulate Poland and Łódź for this event and your prominent place and role in the cultural route on industrial heritage.


Thank you for your attention.

Łódź 20 September 2023
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