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2001 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 136 E/33

(2001/C 136 E/036) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2418/00

by María Sornosa Martínez (PSE) to the Commission

(18 July 2000)

Subject: Establishment of an EU network of sites of cultural and historic interest

The district of Cabanyal-Canyamelar in the city of Valencia, which the autonomous government, the
Generalitat, has declared a site of cultural interest, is currently under threat from a project approved by the
city council to extend Blasco Ibáñez Avenue to the sea. Were the project to go ahead, its route would lead
to the demolition of 1 500 19th-century buildings in the historic centre hitherto afforded protection by the
Valencian Government owing to their ‘unique characteristics and cultural relevance’. For instance, one of
the buildings earmarked for demolition, the Lonja de los Pescadores (fish market), the oldest of its kind in
Spain and one of the oldest in Europe, ranks amongst the most symbolic examples of European cultural

Several local bodies, cultural associations and universities have condemned this attempted assault on the
district, which they have dubbed an ‘open-air museum’; they maintain that the city council has allowed the
area to fall into disrepair in order to be able to press ahead with the plan to extend the avenue. In
addition, local bodies have shown that the ESP 9 billion set aside for compulsory purchases and rehousing
would be sufficient to renovate the entire district and thus afford it the official protection established by
the Generalitat.

The case of Cabanyal-Canyamelar is representative of the many urban planning schemes currently under
way in the EU which have an impact on its historic and cultural heritage and thus run counter to the
provisions of Article 151 of the EC Treaty.

In order to guard against situations in which a combination of isolated cases may lead to the loss of
innumerable treasures forming part of the cultural heritage of the peoples of the European Union, would
the Commission be prepared to look into the possibility of setting up an EU network of sites of cultural
and historic interest similar to that established by Unesco, which would receive the appropriate Commu-
nity funding and contribute towards the upkeep and renovation of those historic buildings and sites that
are most symbolic and representative of Europe and its peoples?

Joint answer
to Written Questions E-2416/00, E-2417/00 and E-2418/00
given by Ms Reding on behalf of the Commission

(11 October 2000)

Article 151 (ex Article 128) of the EC Treaty gives the Community only limited powers in the area of
culture. Community action must be aimed at encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if
necessary, supporting and supplementing their action in a certain number of areas.

Against this background, the Commission would draw the Honourable Member’s attention to the fact that
it cannot adopt legislation in an area that is, and remains, the exclusive responsibility of the Member

As regards the drafting of a directive to make Recommendation No 75/65/EEC (1) (which, in 1974,
recommended that Member States sign the convention on the protection of the world cultural and natural
heritage, adopted by Unesco in 1972) compulsory, it should be noted that all the Member States have
already ratified or agreed to this convention.

Mention should also be made of the existence of Council Directive 85/337/EEC of 27 June 1985 on the
assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, amended by Council
Directive 97/11/EC of 3 March 1997, which obliges Member States to assess the effects on the cultural
heritage of projects for the construction of motorways and expressways (see Article 3 and Annex I of the
Directive). The construction of other types of road and town planning work are subject to an impact
assessment whenever the Member States determine, through a case-by-case examination or using thresh-
olds or criteria set by the Member State, whether the project is to be made subject to an assessment
(Article 4 (2) and Annex II of the Directive). When determining whether this assessment is to be carried
out, Member States must take account of the relevant selection criteria (Article 4 (3) and Annex III of the