PRO URBE Civil European Forum

The regional east-west and north-south divides of Europe are particularly worrisome in terms of cultural heritage under national authority in the European Union, both from the perspectives of urban heritage preservation and of informal heritage culture. Heritage preservation institutions that are rudimentary or practically non-existent as well as the fragmentary and insufficient integration of heritage culture into the way of life is one of the serious, not yet properly assessed factors sustaining the historical underdevelopment of the Central and Eastern European region, just like the “timelessness” of southern cities that are left behind in convergence. The common characteristics of these regions with differing histories include actual de-integration, reduced acceptance of responsibility by the state, social passivity and the failure to rehabilitate heritage assets, in particular irreplaceable urban World Heritage districts. The situation is further aggravated by the lack of protection for the historic stock of buildings and their often large-scale deterioration.
All this cannot be changed merely through the altruistic governmental and/or non-governmental European initiatives launched by certain Northern and Western European countries that excel in the national protection of heritage culture, not even in conjunction with the initiatives of the World Heritage Centre, which serves only world heritage sites.

The Forum Program

People turn to culture as a means of self-definition and mobilization 
and assert their local cultural values.
Our Creative Diversity.
Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development


The basis of the PRO URBE Civil European Forum that is taking shape is an independent international non-governmental network, whose membership unites organizations for the advancement of the preservation, maintenance and development of the urban heritage of European cities. The program initiated by the Foundation for Budapest World Heritage (FBWH) involves non-governmental European organizations, professional NGOs, scientific workshops, social associations and international professional organizations.

The Forum is a kaleidoscope of living European cultural heritage. Its goal is to contribute to the strengthening of society through cultural heritage, to stand up as a leader in the protection of the individual heritage elements, and to make the matter of heritage itself a priority. The program of the Forum is to create an open forum for collective thinking and discussions about the limitless diversity and immeasurable richness of urban built heritage in Europe, making all knowledge, lifestyles, values, cultural customs, collective and individual memories, skills and community sentiments from every nook and cranny of Europe a piece of mutual experience and understanding. At the same time, it aims to bring together the deepest cultural roots of the images of the countries, regions, cities and other places.

This non-governmental network will put the new possibilities for the interplay between the actual and virtual world to the test, through which an astoundingly diverse and independently initiated kaleidoscope of cooperation and participation models can be created in practice. This will occur alongside the organization of traditional programs – viewing of work in progress, workshops, conferences, events held in public spaces, as well as the publication of work materials and position statements.

The World Heritage and Central and Eastern Europe

Buildings are part of our collective memory; they help us experience common aspects of our past; and learning about that past might help cure today’s identity crises. 
That’s what we can ponder about while walking along streets of Prague, Vienna, Trieste, Zagreb, Oradea or Budapest. 
Prof. em. Ákos Moravánszky, ETH Zürich

The exceptional universal value of World Heritage sites improves regional competitiveness and provides an outstanding opportunity for the most successful practices in heritage preservation and development. Both of these aspects have increased significance in the regions of Central and Eastern Europe (Budapest Proposals. ICCROM, UNESCO-WHC, 2000). Therefore, the Forum program is beginning with the participation of non-governmental organizations from our region and the ‘great powers of World Heritage’ (e.g. Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain).

The Forum in the European Year of Cultural Heritage

If Europe exists as a historic unit, then this is due for the most part to European cities.

Leonardo Benevolo, Architecture Historian, Urbanist

The inauguration of the PRO URBE Civil European Forum will be in 2018. The European Council and the European Parliament have designated this year as the European Year of Cultural Heritage. The Forum has earned the full backing of DG for Education and Culture of the European Commission, and of the European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education. Furthermore, the EC has granted the Forum the right to use the EYCH Label. We would like to realize the program for the year together with our non-governmental partners and with the Forum’s audience. A proposed approach is to place in the forefront the rehabilitation of European historic urban districts as one of the most important means of city-level heritage preservation. Budapest is a genuine example of this as the largest and most pressing urban rehabilitation task in present-day Europe. If this approach is not accepted, the preservation of the historic city centre, and of the consistently high quality and uniquely widespread eclectic architecture that comprises it, will not be possible.

We open the Civil Forum with an international conference, a comprehensive online campaign and a Heritage Festival in Hungary. Activities of the Forum will interconnect historical cities of the regions of Europe in all four points of the compass: N and S, E and W – like spokes of a wheel. They will both attract the attention of residents of those cities and respond to their wishes. By way of an example, let us mention an itinerant exhibition that will move among the cities following the formula of 4 x 7=28. Lasting for seven weeks, it will display a rich gamut of European city characters as selected by the four points of the compass from all member countries of the European Union. The financial backing for the activity will come from EU and other grants, from direct support by governmental or professional policy bodies and other sources that can be ensured while maintaining independence.

Background

Europe represents peace for its nations.
Otto von Habsburg


FBWH initiated the formation of the European Civil Forum in 2014, on the tenth anniversary of the ten countries joining the European Union. Key individuals in Brussels and the leadership of numerous countries reacted with encouraging messages to the program’s plan. Network building began in earnest in 2016 on the basis of EU experience and the Hungarian Year of World Heritage in 2012, which FBWH created by a decision of the Parliament, with UNESCO patronage on the significant anniversaries of the World Heritage Convention and several Hungarian World Heritage sites. As for the rehabilitation of Budapest, we began a dialogue about this complex task on the highest professional policy levels of the EC and the EP already in 2004, after Hungary’s accession to the EU (Budapest Renewal, publication, 2004).