The European Heritage Label is an initiative designed to highlight heritage sites that celebrate and symbolise European history, ideals, and integration. It aims to strengthen the support of European citizens for a shared European identity promoting cultural property, monuments, natural or urban sites, contemporary and traditional heritage that have played a key role in building and uniting Europe. In this way, the European Heritage Label is also designed to encourage people to understand, respect and support their heritage.

The European Heritage Label has a different function to UNESCO’s World Heritage list. In fact, the first aims to promote the protection of monuments and sites based on their universal value, while the latter is based on European cultural history and identity.

The European Heritage Label specifically deal with:

  • Designates sites of historical importance to Europe and the EU
  • Chooses sites on the basis of their symbolic value
  • Helps people learn about shared European history, cultural heritage, and values.
  • Encourages networking between the sites and heritage professionals
  • Increases cultural tourism

How does it work?

The label is awarded in two stages, a pre-selection stage and a selection. During each selection process can be awarded only one label per country. During the pre-selection stage, EU countries may choose up to two sites biennially, following which, at selection stage, a panel of 13 independent experts will be set up to select and monitor the sites. The panel of experts examines the applications and recommends which sites should be awarded the label on the basis of an established set of criteria.

What are the selection criteria?

Candidate sites are assessed on the basis of projects which:

  • Raise awareness of the European significance of the sites
  • Organise educational activities
  • Promote multilingualism and ease access by using several languages
  • Take part in the activities of networks of sites awarded the label
  • Raise the profile and attractiveness of the site

Candidate sites must also submit a work plan which includes:
  • Provisions for the sound management of the site, including objectives and indicators
  • Measures to preserve and, if necessary, transform the site
  • The provision of high quality reception facilities
  • Steps to ensure access for the widest possible public
  • Measures to include and engage young people
  • Promotional activities to increase tourism
  • A communication strategy highlighting the European significance
  • Provisions to manage the site in an environmentally friendly manner

How long does it last?

The label can be kept permanently providing certain conditions are respected. Sites are monitored every four years and, if the panel establishes that a site is no longer properly implementing its project or work plan, the label holder will be informed and will have 18 months to make adjustments. Label holders may also give up the label of their own volition.

Who can apply?

Potential candidate sites must be located in an EU country participating in the scheme (Ireland, Finland, Luxembourg, Sweden, and the United Kingdom are not currently participating).

Potential candidates should demonstrate the cross-border or pan-European nature of their site, as well as demonstrating their place and role in European history or integration and the promotion of common European values. Candidates can be national, comprised of several sites from a single country, or transnational, comprised of thematic sites from at least two countries. In both cases they should consist of a reasonable number of participating sites with a clear thematic link, a common name, a single coordinator, and a single point of contact.

The National Focus Point

The Focus Point, settled in every country, spreads the knowledge of the European Heritage Label in the country, through the organization of information days, the publication of information materials, management and updating of the website and assists site managers interested in applying for Action in the application process through help-desk phone and by e-mail, and by means of appointments in place. Care also relations with the European institutions responsible for Community Action.

First sites to get European Heritage Label named

The first sites to receive the new European Heritage Label were named by the independent selection panel set up by the European Commission.

The four sites are:

Carnuntum Archaeological Park, a Roman reconstructed city quarter in Bad Deutsch-Altenburg, Austria:

The medieval Great Guild Hall in Tallinn, Estonia:

The 100-year-old Peace Palace in The Hague

Camp Westerbork, a World War II Nazi transit camp at Hooghalen, also in the Netherlands:

Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for culture, stated: "I congratulate the first sites to receive the new European Heritage Label. I believe that this initiative has the potential to be one of the most successful and popular schemes organised by the EU. It has a strong educational angle, especially for young people who will be able to better understand the European Union's history through its association with symbolic sites. We look forward to receiving further outstanding applications in the coming years.

Under the Decision setting up the Label and its criteria , five EU countries (Austria, Estonia, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) were eligible to nominate sites in 2013. They proposed a total of nine sites for the Label.

A European panel made up of 13 independent cultural experts then assessed the applications on the agreed criteria: the most important of these are the European significance of the site, the activities proposed to highlight it and sound management of the site in order to attract public interest.

A further 18 Member States (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain) will be eligible to nominate sites in 2014. Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Croatia will not participate for the time being, but can join the initiative later if they wish.

Watch this video with an interview by Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner in Charge of Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth and Doris Pack, Member of the European Parliament Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education: