The Council of Europe – established on 5 May 1949 under the Treaty of London and now has 47 member states – is the main organization for the defense of human rights on the continent. Other its main purposes are to promote democracy, the European cultural identity and the search for solutions to social problems in Europe.
In 1987 the Council of Europe decided to create a European Cultural Routes system having the key feature to merge several Countries on the basis of thematic routes based on historical and artistic elements expressed by the Culture of the Peoples of Europe.
The Program of Cultural Routes was originated from the awareness, experienced within a working group of the Council of Europe itself, about the existence of places of cultural attraction and about the role that they could (and can) play in enhancement of the tangible and intangible heritage of European civilization and, at the same time, to promote mutual understanding and circulation of ideas between the Peoples of Europe.
From there took shape the idea of fostering, through the journey, the rediscovery of the European cultural community, and finally – following in more recent times the evolution of customs and the needs of development of the European economies – the next intuition to combine in so close to the knowledge and enjoyment of cultural tourism assets socio-economic development of the territories crossed by the routes.
The Council of Europe has therefore tasked to select, approve and coordinate the various proposals made by parties of the Acceding States to a European Institute of Cultural Routes special place under the auspices of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
- Restore the centrality of Culture as a driving element for a higher awareness on the values of Nature and History and essential growth factor for the strengthening of cooperation for the development of science and socio-economic development of the Community;
- Build a European reality based on a shared cultural background, union site of a coordinated development logic;
- Foster the exchange of knowledge between the Territories and the implementation of specific activities of training and information, especially for the younger generation, as far as the shared cultural and historical inheritance and training also addresses a common and higher awareness on the values of today’s European citizenship.
- Creating a permanent director for cooperation between institutions, specialized centers of study and research, business and living forces of the Route Territories in the development of their local community;
- Encouraging permanently and promote cooperation initiatives between European Itinerary Territories and stimulate new tourism opportunities and thereby stimulate the qualitative growth of many economic sectors, employment, the meeting between young people, the enhancement and promotion of forms and artistic expression
The Council of Europe has promoted the establishment of the European Cultural Itineraries with the aim of favouring the reciprocal knowledge and cooperation of the peoples of Europe through the sharing of common cultural aspects.
The Council of Europe defines the European Cultural Itineraries as “a pathway that passes through one or more countries or regions and is organised around themes of European historical, artistic or social interest, as regards both the geographical layout of the Itinerary and its content and significance.”
- To promote – through cultural and sustainable tourism – the sharing of common values and a feeling of belonging among European citizens
- To enhance the territories through which the Itinerary passes with a homogeneous shared leitmotif (cultural, historical, artistic, productive)
- To pursue the values of responsible, sustainable, environmentally compatible and ethical tourism (WTO principles)
The task of attending to discipline, to the procedures for accepting candidacies of new European Cultural Itineraries, their approval and control and the continuity of promotional activities, has been entrusted to the Institut Européen des Itinéraires Culturels based in Luxembourg (http://www.culture-routes.lu/php/fo_index.php?)
The European Cultural Itineraries, according to the founding regulations, must possess precise characteristics:
- they must be centred on a theme representing European values, common to several countries;
- they must be developed along a historic route or, in the case of cultural tourism, create a new one;
- they must develop projects for long-term multilateral compatibility in some priority sectors (scientific research, preservation and enhancement of the heritage; cultural and educational exchanges among young people in Europe; contemporary practice of culture and the arts; cultural tourism and its sustainable development);
Besides corresponding to the general criteria described above, the construction of a European Cultural Itinerary requires the definition, by a Scientific Committee created by the proposers, of precise scientific criteria for selecting admissible locations on the route.