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Heritage Conservation Reform is a priority for the Ministry of Culture

In cooperation with representatives of the heritage conservation field, the Ministry of Culture has developed a draft legislation for changing the Heritage Conservation Act and the Heritage Conservation reform continues to be a priority for us. This reform is necessary in order to provide more active support to the owners of objects under heritage protection (there are about 100,000 owners). The current compensation system is also in need of restructuring by legal means. The current situation is damaging to the owners’ sense of justice and inherently endangers the conservation of heritage objects that are in public interest. In order to launch the Heritage Conservation Reform, we are applying for additional funds in the sum of 2.1 million euros per year at the ongoing state budget strategy discussion. The ministry of Culture wants to enforce the amended Heritage Conservation Act as of 1 January 2019.


Why is the Heritage Conservation Reform necessary?

The protection of cultural objects is a constitutional task. Cultural heritage is an important part of Estonian history and it acts as a source of identity for each individual as well as the state as a whole. Unfortunately, nearly 25% of building monuments in Estonia are currently in a poor state or require emergency repairs. The main shortcoming of the heritage conservation field is that there is a considerable discrepancy in the extent of obligations of the owners of heritage objects, who are responsible of conserving the cultural objects that are in the public interest, and the obligations of the state in ensuring the conservation of monuments. The current compensation system is also in need of restructuring. The current situation creates feelings of injustice in owners and puts the conservation of heritage in danger. The state wishes to help the owners of monuments and support their activities as a devoted cooperation partner in the field of conservation and organising heritage objects that are under heritage protection. The role of the Heritage Conservation Board will increase as a result of this reform in terms of consultations and inclusion of owners.
The best way to conserve heritage is to grow it and provide regular maintenance; this is also an economically sound practice. Regularly maintained and well-kept cultural objects create an improved and more attractive living environment, which in turn helps to increase general quality of life, creates jobs, stimulates the economy and increases the state’s competitiveness.


How does the Heritage Conservation Reform affect the economy?

Cultural value sites and objects that are used and in good condition improve the competitiveness of the state. Based on the statistical data of the European Union, heritage contributes a lot to economy. Renovating and maintaining buildings constituted for 27.5 % of the value of the European construction industry in 2013.
Cultural heritage has spillover effects in other economic sectors. For example, the estimated contribution of tourism in the EU's domestic total production is 415 billion euros and 3.4 million tourism enterprises provide jobs for 15.2 million people, among whom many are directly or indirectly connected to cultural heritage. 27 % of EU travellers claim that the cultural heritage is the main factor for choosing a travel destination.
Estonian experiences show that improving the state of cultural heritage stimulates regional economy as well. For example, in addition to an educational function, manor schools also fill the function of a community centre and are often tourism destinations. According to preliminary assessment, the implementation of the Haapsalu Episcopal Castle development project would create jobs for 130 people in the region (incl. tourism enterprises, accommodation, catering etc.).


What changes will the reform bring?

The draft of the Heritage Conservation Act provides six major changes, the aim of which is to ensure a transition from a controlling heritage protection to an inclusive heritage protection:

  • the state will compensate to the owner that part of the works, which is different from regular works – tests and heritage conservation monitoring;
  • an improved public service – we will increase the part of prevention works and the role of the Heritage Conservation Board as an advisor to owners;
  • we will reorganise the system of activity licenses based on current and new professions that are to be created;
  • we will modernise the requirements and management procedure of conducting works;
  • in order to prevent illegal trade of cultural objects, we will impose stricter regulations on findings of cultural objects;
  • The Heritage Conservation Board will manage the strategic cooperation of the heritage conservation field and museums.

Who is the target group?

As a result of the reform, the state will become more active as a devoted partner who gets owners involved concerning ca 100,000 owners of objects under heritage protection (incl. natural and legal persons). In addition to owners, the change will affect entrepreneurs and licenced specialists, the Heritage Conservation Board and museums among state authorities. Cultural heritage affects all foreign tourists and inhabitants of Estonia indirectly.


What will the implementation of the reform cost?

In order to implement the draft legislation, the Ministry of Culture is applying for additional funds in the sum of 2.1 million euros per year from the state budget. About 80% of this will be directed straight to owners who wish to repair or reorganise their heritage objects. The rest of the funding is intended to be used for developing a public service of higher quality.
The burden on the state budget will be eased by income from other sectors (incl. construction, tourism, employment).


What is the schedule for the Heritage Conservation Reform?

The ministry of Culture wants to enforce the Heritage Conservation Act as of 1 January 2019. The draft legislation has been in preparation for over two years and it has passed the first round of coordination of government authorities (2015).

More information:
Tarvi Sits
Undersecretary for Cultural Heritage at the Ministry of Culture
+ 372 6282210