Latvian chairmanship July 2018 – July 2019

Latvian chairmanship

July 2018 – July 2019

We share a common value – the Baltic Sea coast with its special character and cultural heritage enriched by diverse contributions from each country. There is a tendency of growing understanding of cultural heritage as an important element in the development of a democratic, law-based, culture-oriented society. Thus, cultural heritage plays a role both in shaping a regional identity and ensuring sustainable growth – both long-term priorities of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS). Additionally, the notion of cultural heritage has expanded. It is no longer something exclusive to be revered, it is becoming an integral part of our societal living space. This space is constantly evolving which means that heritage systems should be flexible and able to adapt to these changes. The preservation of cultural heritage calls for an interdisciplinary approach which looks at the wider context beyond.

With the aim to encourage more people to discover and engage with Europe’s cultural heritage, as well as to look for the ways how to better preserve, enjoy and promote the heritage, the European Commission has declared the year 2018 as the European Year for Cultural heritage.

The respective considerations were grounds to choose the priority “Dialogue” within the Latvian presidency in the CBSS – for the first time in the CBSS history, so much attention was paid to heritage in the CBSS activities agenda. The priority “Dialogue in cultural heritage” is implemented mostly by the Baltic Region Heritage Committee (BRHC). We have 20 years’ experience in heritage cooperation, significant achievements and great plans for the new approach to the regional cooperation.

In order to anticipate the changes in the rapid development of society and to encourage agility for the necessary changes, which can affect the quality and efficiency of the heritage protection Latvia hosted a conference “Heritage Protection for the Future” on 4 October 2018.

By adopting a joint resolution, the conference participants agreed that both on the national and international level the focus on interdisciplinary dimension of the cultural heritage should be strengthened. The need to bring up a sense of common responsibility was recognized. It is not enough that there are laws and public authorities, the society itself must learn to take the responsibility. What inspires people the most is the good example and evidence of success; therefore, the heritage sector should work on more effective collection and analysis of good practice. There is no one correct solution stated in the law. The professionals must have an approach which is oriented towards preservation of values, facilitate the quality of human life and at the same time thoughtful and creative approach.

The moto of the resolution is “It’ s time to go further by preserving the best of what has remained. We can do much more than we can imagine”.

Following the overall reform plans of the CBSS to create proactive and project – oriented organisation, the discussion was commenced on the evolution of the BRHC as cooperation which adds value. With this regard desire to transform the ways of cooperation was outspoken introducing the change of coordination mode and financing model – more intensive involvement of the acting chair and Trio in the committee work, taking more responsibility by chairing country. Based on the aggregated information by the member countries on their expected cooperation forms and interests, draft of Terms of Reference of the BRHC has been commenced and it will be adopted during the next chairmanship and supplemented with Action Plan.

As the grounds for future vision of collaboration serves compilation of documents drafted during 20 years of regional cooperation, which has been prepared during the Latvian chairmanship.

In order to acquire full representation of the Baltic Sea Region in the BRHC and ensure a solid regional cooperation among the national heritage administrations of the Baltic Sea region, the Latvian chairmanship started a dialogue with the missing countries – Iceland, Mecklenburg – Vorpommern and Russia. The negotiations have resulted in Mecklenburg – Vorpommern return to the BRHC and expressing their wish to participate in the next BRHC meeting in Denmark.

In spring 2019 the BRHC agreed to organise the Baltic Region Heritage Forum (Forum) in Oslo in October 2020 on the topic of cultural heritage management in changing climate. The climate is understood in two meanings – not only as environmental phenomenon but also change of public attitude and need for more intense dialogue and awareness. The Forum will sequentially continue the conclusions of the heritage conference organised by Latvian presidency, as well as fully complies with one of the future priorities of the CBSS – prevention of climate change.

Cooperation with the CBSS secretariat during the Latvian chairmanship was strengthened by signing the Memorandum of Understanding, which provides for closer cooperation and exchange of information on activities that relates to heritage.

Evaluating the progress of The Council of Europe Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes in valorising heritage and contribution in facilitating regional welfare Latvian chairmanship introduced discussion on possible new European Cultural Routes that would highlight the specific values of the Baltic Sea Region. The BRHC was actively represented in the initiative of macroregional project Routes4U (September 2018 seminar in Oslo, March 2019 consultations in Helsinki, invitation to participate in the meeting of the steering group in July 2019, Luxembourg), thus promoting heritage in European Cultural Routes and enclosure in interdisciplinary dialogue. The BRHC is determined to pay more attention to mapping and valorising the specific values and heritage potential of the region and ensure high awareness of capabilities and resources.

The project, supported by CBSS Project Support facility “Digital approaches to cultural heritage; towards a Pan-Baltic cooperation network”, was kicked off during the Latvian chairmanship. The main aim of the project is to explore the prospects for further cooperation between the cultural heritage institutions of Baltic states in the field of digitization. The current best practices are collected and examined; the recommendations for cooperation will be elaborated.

During the Latvian chairmanship two BRHC meetings were held – October 2018 in Riga and April 2019 in Oslo; BRHC Trio meetings – February 2019 Skype meeting, June 2019 in Riga; Task force meeting April 2019 in Oslo on the Forum activities. Underwater Heritage Working group meetings in October 2018 in Riga and April 2019 in Tallinn; Coastal Heritage Working group meetings in November 2019 in Gdansk and April 2019 in Norway; 20. century architecture Working group meetings in September 2019 in Kaunas and May 2019 in Helsinki.

Cooperation in heritage is highly valued by the Foreign ministers of the Baltic sea region, recognizing achievements in the cultural heritage in the Jūrmala declaration adopted 3. June 2019 in Jūrmala during the High level meeting and closing conference of the presidency in the CBSS.

Latvia heartfully thanks the senior chairmanship of Sweden and sincerely welcomes Denmark as the chair of the BRHC within the next Trio (Latvia – Denmark – Lithuania) for the period of July 2019 – June 2020.

We all ought to foster more respect for heritage within other disciplines, as well as facilitate awareness of heritage values and contribution in wider context. Nevertheless, it is very important to acknowledge our regional treasures and potential, advantages of personal contacts which gives opportunity to solve crucial issues immediately learning from the best practices of our neighbours.


Baiba Mūrniece

Chair, 2018/2019

National Heritage Board of Latvia


Agnese Rupenheite

Coordinator, 2018/2019

National Heritage Board of Latvia


Riga, 30th June, 2019