Interview with Stefano DOMINIONI

Interview with Stefano DOMINIONI

Executive Secretary of the Council of Europe Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes, Director of the European Institute of Cultural Routes (Luxembourg)

This time we have the great honor of interviewing Dr. Stefano Dominioni. Nobody better than him to offer us a unique vision of what European cultural tourism represents. Dr. Stefano Dominioni (Ph.D., M.Phil. M.A, Yale University, B.A University of Milan) is Executive Secretary of the Council of Europe Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes, and Director of the European Institute of Cultural Routes in Luxembourg. He is responsible for overseeing the certification by the Council of Europe of Cultural Route projects in the field of European history, art, heritage, and landscape across its 47 Member States and the regular evaluation of the current 31 certified Cultural Routes. Since 2005, the European Routes of Jewish Heritage are part of this incredible European project.

The routes defined by the Council of Europe serve as privileged channels for intercultural dialogue and for promoting a better knowledge and understanding of European history and cultural heritage, projecting the highest European values. In these 30 years of history, in your opinion, what do you think are the greatest achievements of the organization?
Since 1987, the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe have been protecting, promoting and enhancing European values, cultural heritage and diversity, providing spaces for inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue, prompting a sustainable, ethic, responsible tourism, stimulating local economic development. The constant evolution in the number of certified Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, their extended geographical coverage, the establishment of the European Institute of Cultural Routes with the support of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (1998) and more recently the creation of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe (with its 30 member States) testify the increasing interest the programme is receiving among grassroots organisations, local, regional, national as well as European stakeholders. Cultural Routes continue to be innovative and effective tools for cultural co-operation among Europeans, involving all 47 member States of the Council of Europe -and beyond. Today the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe and their networks count more than 1,000 members in over 50 countries. They stakeholders, ranging from local and regional authorities, museums, local institutions, universities, to civil society organisations, professional organisations, SMEs, tourism professionals, and cultural associations, make heritage a participatory experience, accessible to a wide European audience.

The Council of Europe cooperates with other international organization stakeholders, such as UNESCO and UNWTO. Your position in this international framework offers you a unique vision of the state of the cultural tourism. What lines of work exist with them? Is there any financial help?
The Council of Europe and the European Institute of Cultural Routes pursues a co-operation with the UNWTO through joint work in the areas of sustainable tourism, training for cultural routes and development of cultural tourism indicators. As the leading international organization in the field of tourism, UNWTO promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and offers leadership and support to the sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe and of the UNWTO signed in 2016 a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance co-operation in developing the cultural tourism dimension of the 31 certified Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe. More recently, we have been developing close cooperation to jointly promote the development of the European segment of the Silk Road. UNESCO and the Council of Europe have a long history of cooperation, as well and with ICOMOS, and its International Committee on Cultural Routes (CIIC), aiming at the identification, study and enhancement of cultural routes world-wide. Since 2010, The Council of Europe has co-operated with the European Commission in the context of Joint Programmes with DG Grow. A study on European Cultural Routes impacts on SMEs innovation, competitiveness and clustering was launched aiming to provide insights on the effects produced by the Council of Europe Cultural Routes Programme on SMEs performance, network and cluster development. Recent joint programmes with EC focused on enhancing promotional activities and marketing of the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, as well as the mapping of Cultural Routes, and capacity building for Cultural Routes managers. More recently, we joined forces with the EC to increase Europe?s visibility as a tourist destination as well as of its diverse destinations and to contribute to the touristic visibility and quality of European Cultural Routes certified by the Council of Europe or preparing for certification. The European Parliament Education and Culture committee recently devoted a report on the role of culture in international relations, referring to the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe as privileged ?institutional tool for strengthening grassroots cultural relations also with third countries, with a view to promoting the fundamental values of cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and sustainable territorial development of less well-known cultural destinations, while preserving their shared cultural heritage?. As far as European funding available for our cultural routes, many are the programmes of interest (Horizon 2020, Interreg, Creative Europe, just to mention a few). According to a recent survey among our 31 Cultural Routes, over 16 Million EUR worth of funding were received as a whole by our cultural routes in the last 5-year period ?a very impressive achievement! Funding is also available at national, regional and local levels across Council of Europe member states.

The Jewish history of Europe is very particular, rich and complex. It has always been an aspiration for the Jewish people. It has represented European modernity, but also the Holocaust. It has represented religion, but also the vanguard of culture and art. A puzzle of stories and multiple identities with a lot of emotional load that we try to reflect in our routes from the APEJ. In an organization that is an umbrella, such as the Institute of Cultural Routes, which covers all kinds of history and stories, what role do you think the Jewish Heritage Routes play?
The European Route of Jewish Heritage is among the widest of our Cultural Route networks for membership and activities, illustrating the relevance of Jewish cultural heritage across the European continent. The work carried out by the AEPJ in bringing knowledge of Jewish heritage to the wider European by means of initiatives such as the European Days of Jewish Heritage is of extreme importance: promoting knowledge and understanding of historic synagogues and cemeteries, Jewish neighborhoods, monuments, memorials, as well as museums, archives and libraries ?all contributing to the understanding of Jewish heritage in the context of European history. The activities promoted by the European Route of Jewish Heritage also reminds us the need to constantly uphold the values promoted by the Council of Europe: the protection and promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, emphasizing the respect for cultural diversity, and the promotion of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue among Europeans. Earlier this year, we proudly hosted in the premises of the Neumunster Abbey in Luxembourg the General Assembly of the European Route of Jewish Heritage, chaired by your President, Mr. Francois MOYSE.

In less than a month, the Cultural Routes Advisory Forum is held in Lucca (Italy), under the motto: Building dialogue and sustainable development through European values and heritage. What are your expectations for this important meeting? And in your opinion, what are the major trends that exist now regarding cultural tourism?
Every year the Advisory Forum is the key event in the programme of activities our Cultural Routes programme. The Forum, hosted by a member State of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes, brings together representatives of cultural routes, member States of the Council of Europe, International Organisations, along with local and regional authorities and professionals in the field of cultural tourism. In 2015 the Forum was hosted by Spain (Aranjuez), in 2016 by Lithuania (Vilnius) and this year the Forum will be hosted by Italy (Lucca, 27-29 September 2017) and celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe programme (1987-2017). The annual Forum provides the opportunity to discuss cultural routes trends and challenges and offers a platform for the exchange of good practices, the development of new initiatives and partnerships. The Forum in Lucca will provide the chance to highlight past, present and future contributions of the Cultural Routes to the promotion of the values of the Council of Europe, in the fields of human rights, cultural heritage, diversity, intercultural dialogue. Particular attention will be devoted also to the key aim of developing and fostering sustainable and accessible cultural tourism.. Presidents of the network associations managing the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe and representatives from candidate cultural routes will attend, along with academics, experts and representatives from the tourism industry. Over two days of workshops and interactive sessions, the Forum will explore the history of the Cultural Routes programme, from the 1987 Santiago de Compostela Declaration, to the establishment of the European Institute of Cultural Routes in Luxembourg, and the creation of the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe. We are expecting over 300 international participants from Europe and beyond.
Current major trends in cultural tourism show a rapid increase in both demand and offer interested in authentic ?cultural experiences?, looking to explore lesser-known, rural destinations for an increasingly culturally educated and technologically friendly cultural tourist. The trend includes choices that privilege environmentally-friendly cultural tourism offers, attentive to their sustainability and the socio-economic impact on the local communities. The Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe?s mission and philosophy fully embrace and support these trends.