CULTURAL HERITAGE POLICY
Belgium being a federal State, the Flemish government is the central actor in the implementation of the regional immovable heritage policy.
The immovable heritage Minister for Flanders, Mr. Matthias Diependaele defined the following major policy issues for the term 2019-2024:
- Contributing to the immovable heritage policy and implementing it is increasingly a shared initiative. Citizens and local authorities expect the Government of Flanders to be less controlling but instead provide a framework and guidance. Local authorities are adopting a higher profile. They are in a good position to help conduct a well-considered and supported policy. The Government of Flanders stimulates the development of a local immovable heritage policy by offering cities and municipalities the opportunity to become 'a recognised immovable heritage municipality'. In addition, more than half of the Flemish municipalities are already members of a 'recognised inter-municipal immovable heritage service' (IOED). Heritage protection is a story of cooperation. We will make the immovable heritage policy interactive. We will involve stakeholders in the vision development process. We will encourage local authorities to pursue a supported immovable heritage policy. The Government of Flanders will make its knowledge and expertise available for this purpose. At the official level, we will continue to work towards a proactive and customer-oriented government. We are fully committed to digitisation, pro-active enforcement and mediation. With regard to regulation, we will strive for simplification and legal certainty. All of this applies in particular to archaeological heritage policy;
- The policy agenda is based on a cross-sectoral approach. As part of our living environment, immovable heritage is a factor in integrated and sustainable area development, in which other spatial needs, such as mobility, housing, recreation, tourism, nature management, and so on also play a role. Immovable heritage gains its appreciation from the historical context and interacts with policy options of other sectors. Challenges, such as increasing the energy efficiency of the existing patrimony and the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy, together with higher societal expectations in terms of comfort, safety and security and accessibility challenge the immovable heritage sector to look for bespoke sustainable and innovative solutions that reconcile the heritage values with these societal needs. Using the European Landscape Convention as a starting point, we will further develop a fully-fledged area-specific, participatory and cross-sectoral landscape policy during this term of office. We promote initiative and showcase our results. Immovable heritage will be utilised even more as an asset. Conserving heritage by giving it a high-quality contemporary use is more than ever a policy theme. We want to add innovative, qualitative new temporal layers to our heritage. We will highlight our heritage as a strong Flemish 'brand' and present the results of our policy;
- Protection is a cornerstone of immovable heritage policy. Since the first Monuments Act of 1931, a complementary system of different protection statutes has been developed with one common goal: to preserve the most relevant heritage witnesses of life in Flanders for the future. The fundamental question, however, is whether that which is protected in 2019 constitutes a good representative sample of the witnesses of the past that are most worthy of protection. Protection continues to be the exclusive instrument of the Government of Flanders. The credibility of the instrument depends entirely on its consistent application. New protected heritage must be framed within a broader thematic whole and fit within the reference framework of the entire Flemish territory. At the same time, we will systematically evaluate the stock that is already protected. Because an effective protection policy depends on the quality of the protection orders, we will develop a format for future protected heritage that offers sufficient guidance in terms of legal and content-related matters. We will also optimise the effectiveness of inventories by reviewing the identification instrument and the different legal consequences;
- Financial support must become more efficient and effective. The public support survey shows that the general public in Flanders expects the government to invest in heritage policy. Approximately 85 percent of the budget earmarked for immovable heritage policy is reserved each year for the various types of maintenance and restoration grants. Demand, however, exceeds supply. In the meantime, the grant system has caused a large backlog. Such a backlog has an inhibiting effect on the policy-making scope. In order to optimally meet the financial needs and to ensure that the support is also feasible and affordable for the government, we will work on a duly considered activation and adjustment of the funding system. We will reduce the waiting list. We will reserve extra investment funds to recover lost ground. We will also examine whether other measures can be taken to help reduce the waiting list.
The main Flemish immovable heritage actors/instances are the following
a. Minister responsible for Immovable Heritage
b. Governmental advisory boards:
- Strategic Advisory Council for Spatial Planning and Immovable Heritage: for policy issues;
- Flemish commission for immovable heritage: for issues concerning the implementation of the heritage legislation by the Flanders Heritage Agency. Also handles appeals..
c. Flanders Heritage Agency (ministry): prepares and carries out the Flemish heritage policy & legislation, divided in 4 departments:
- General management and staff. This unit includes a policy team, responsible for thematic research (policy level), preparation of legislation, follow-up of international affairs …
- Research and listing: responsible for inventories, listing procedures, thematic research (heritage and conservation level) …
- Heritage management: the ‘face’ of the agency; handles permits, grants, recognition of heritage experts …
- Information and communication.
Follow-up of compliance and law-enforcement are carried out by a separate inspection agency.
d. Heritage organizations: perform network or umbrella duties, provide services, sometimes financially supported by the government. Some of the bigger ones:
- Herita: Flemish National Trust, umbrella for immovable heritage organisations, organizes European Heritage Days in Flanders;
- Monument Watch Flanders;
- Centre for Religious Art and Culture.
e. Local authorities:
- Partners in carrying out the Flemish heritage policy;
- Allowed to complement the Flemish heritage policy;
- Possibility to create communal and intercommunal heritage services, taking over certain Flemish responsibilities.
f. Officially recognized heritage specialists and services
- heritage depots;
- metal detector users;
- heritage entrepreneurs.
g. Together with the § 1 above, an organisational chart showing the structure of competencies and responsibilities within heritage management (size : half-a-page) will be included.
On January 1st 2015 a new general immovable heritage decree, bundling and updating all the legislation concerning the built heritage, landscapes and archaeology, has entered into force. The new law reaffirms certain principles already included in the older legislation (e.g. the development of heritage inventories, the listing of heritage, the system of financial support …), updates them and strengthens their effectiveness (e.g. certain adaptations to the listing procedure …), concretizes some concepts (e.g. the principle of subsidiarity, with larger responsibilities for communities …) and introduces new ones (e.g. heritage orientation plans for broader policy-development …). Most importantly it aims at the full implementation of the Valletta-Convention.
RATIFIED INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS
- Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954): ratified by Belgium on 16 September 1970
- Second Protocol to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1999), ratified by Belgium on 13 October 2010
- Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970) – ratified by Belgium on 31 March 2009
- Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972): ratified by Belgium on 24 July 1996
- Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001): ratified on 5 August 2013
- Convention for the Safeguarding of Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003): ratified by Belgium on 24 March 2006
Council of Europe
- Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe (Granada, 1985): ratified by Belgium on 17 September 1992
- European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Valletta, 1992) (revised); ratified by Belgium on 8 October 2010
- European Landscape Convention (Florence, 2000): ratified by Belgium on 28 October 2004
- Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (Faro, 2005): signed by Belgium on 25 June 2012, ratification in progress
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