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Towards the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018: Culture is bringing communities together and boosting growth in Timișoara  

The upcoming European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 is a great opportunity to bring communities together and diversify and strengthen our local economies, representatives of EU institutions and Europe's regions and cities highlighted in Timișoara, Romania, on 29 September.

The conference was organised in the future European Capital of Culture (2021) by the SEDEC commission of the European Committee of the Regions at the initiative of Alin Nica (RO/EPP), Mayor of Dudeștii Noi. Mr Nica, newly elected as first vice-chair of the SEDEC commission, said: "EU is a worldwide leader in cultural heritage, but we need to capitalise on this huge heritage and turn it into economic advantage. Tourism and creative industries can help culture become a driver for economic growth."

José Ignacio Ceniceros (ES/EPP), new chair of the SEDEC commission, noted that the European Year of Cultural Heritage is a celebration for Europe's cultural diversity. "In La Rioja we have built our cultural identity on two pillars: the Spanish language, which was born in written form in our region over 1000 years ago, and the wine that forms part of the tradition of our villages and that we export to all continents. As we are building a European Union for its citizens and communities, our conference is reflecting the interinstitutional focus of the European Year", the President of La Rioja said.

Timișoara, Romania's third largest city, was recently designated as European Capital of Culture 2021. Mayor Nicolae Robu said: "Cultural tourism has been an important part of our development in the past few years. We offer our visitors a rich cultural agenda. Our city hosts a variety of cultural institutions and over 100 cultural events are organised by the local authorities every year. We have managed to unite our efforts in the field of culture and that has helped us to win the title against 13 other cities in Romania, including Bucharest and Cluj."

The President of Timiș County Council Călin-Ionel Dobra emphasized the multicultural character of the city of Timișoara and the surrounding Banat region, which has, among others, visible German, Hungarian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Roma minorities. "Multilinguism here brings people together. We support cultural projects and events through civil society to promote cultural identities of our different communities", he said.

Apostolos Tzitzikostas (EL/EPP), rapporteur of the CoR opinion on an EU strategy for culture, pointed out that better understanding of cultures and origins is crucial for the integration of minorities and migrants. He also noted that "investing in cultural policy will provide significant benefits to local communities in many fields. Therefore local and regional authorities and CoR should play a strategic role in the design and development of an EU policy for culture and the EYCH 2018."

MEP Mircea Diaconu (RO/ALDE), Vice-President of the European Parliament's CULT committee and Parliament's rapporteur on the European Year of Cultural Heritage, concluded: "The cultural year can be the cure for many diseases, such as populism and xenophobia, and help to improve relations with migrants."

In a video message, Victor Negrescu, Minister-Delegate for European Affairs of Romania, emphasised that cultural policy will also be a key priority during the Romanian presidency of the Council in the first half of 2019.