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Heritage Conservation Reform is a priority for the Ministry of Culture

In 2013, the Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with representatives from the field of heritage conservation, started to draft an amendment to the Heritage Conservation Act. This involved the comprehensive inclusion of stakeholders in the preparation of the draft, which was forwarded to the government for a financing decision. During the negotiations regarding the strategy for the state budget in the spring of 2017, the government agreed to additionally finance the implementation of the heritage conservation reform with a sum of €1.4 million annually starting in 2019. This amount will be paid out as direct grants to owners that wish to renovate heritage properties. Within the framework of a general salary increase for cultural workers, the Ministry of Culture received additional funding in September 2017 for developing higher quality public services, for organisational restructuring of the National Heritage Board, and for raising employees' salaries. We wish to see the amended Heritage Conservation Act enter into force on 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. 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 five 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 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 135,000 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?

The Ministry of Culture applied for an addition €2 million from the state budget for the implementation of the draft legislation. During the negotiations regarding the strategy for the state budget in the spring of 2017, the government allocated €1.4 million annually for the implementation of the Heritage Conservation Reform, which will be paid out as direct grants to the owners that wish to renovate heritage properties. The remainder of the financing will be allocated to the development of better quality public services, organisational reorganisation and employees’ salaries. We hope to find the funds to cover these costs in the course of the negotiations regarding the salary increases for employees in the cultural field.


Documents related to the draft amendment


The draft is related to the Action Plan of the Government of the Republic for 2016-2019, in which clause 5, which is related to the field of culture, calls for the organisation of heritage conservation to be reformed.

The updating of the legislation in the field is also mentioned in the Principles of Cultural Policy until 2020, which was approved by the Riigikogu on 12 February 2014 (p. 22 Heritage Conservation).


The preparations for Heritage Conservation reform are continuing. The Ministry of Culture would like the amended Heritage Conservation Act to enter into force on 1 January 2019.

More information:
Liina Jänes
Adviser (Cultural Heritage)


Last updated: 24 January 2018