The EU was created in the aftermath of the Second World War. The first steps were to foster economic cooperation: the idea being that countries that trade with one another become economically interdependent and so more likely to avoid conflict.
Some steps preceded the creation of the EU, but were important from the industrial heritage point of view
- The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was an international organisation serving to unify certain Continental European countries after World War II. It was formally established in 1951 by the Treaty of Paris, which was signed by Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The ECSC was the first international organisation to be based on the principles of supranationalism.
- The European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom) is an international organisation founded in 1957 with the purpose of creating a specialist market for nuclear power in Europe, developing nuclear energy and distributing it to its member states while selling the surplus to non-member states. It is legally distinct from the European Union (EU), but has the same membership, and is governed by the EU's institutions
These initial 'communities' resulted in the European Economic Community (EEC), created in 1958. It was the start of an increasing economic cooperation between six countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, later and till recently followed by 22 other countries. What began as a purely economic union has evolved into an organization spanning policy areas, from climate, environment and health to external relations and security, justice and migration. A name change from the European Economic Community (EEC) to the European Union (EU) in 1993 reflected this.
The European Union’s action in the field of culture and heritage however only supplements Member States’ cultural policy, respecting their national and regional diversity and bringing the common cultural heritage to the fore. While Article 167 of the Lisbon Treaty expressly excludes harmonisation, decision-making on cultural matters (mainly funding programmes) in the Council has taken place on the basis of qualified majority voting (QMV) since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, as opposed to the former unanimity requirement. The Council may also adopt recommendations on the basis of Commission proposals.
The cultural sector is also affected by provisions of the Treaties which do not explicitly pertain to culture.
There are today four action programmes for culture
Creative Europe - the EU’s culture programme for 2014-2020
European Capitals of Culture (ECoCs)
The EU also has set a EU Directive against unlawful removal of cultural objects from the territory of one EU country to the territory of another EU country. It covers all cultural objects identified as ‘national treasures possessing artistic, historic or archaeological value’ under national legislation.