Cultural heritage became an EU priority with the European Agenda for Culture in 2007. In 2014, the Council highlighted the social and economic benefits of heritage policies in its Conclusions on cultural heritage as a strategic resource for a sustainable Europe.
In response, in July 2014 the European Commission adopted the Communication "Towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage for Europe". The communication states that the sector is at a "crossroads" due to:
- reduced public budgets
- falling participation in traditional cultural activities
- diversifying potential audiences due to urbanisation
- technological change
It also highlighted opportunities for EU countries and stakeholders to work more closely across borders to ensure that cultural heritage contributes more to sustainable growth and jobs.
In November 2014, EU Culture Ministers adopted Council Conclusions on participatory governance of cultural heritage, inviting the Commission to propose a European Year of Cultural Heritage. The European Parliament resolution of 8 September 2015 invited the Commission 'to designate, preferably for 2018, a European Year of Cultural Heritage'.
The recent Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe report shows that heritage creates jobs, encourages investment and can improve social cohesion. An estimated 300,000 people work directly in the cultural heritage sector in the EU and as many as 7.8 million jobs are created indirectly by the sector.