Cultural heritage of European coastal and maritime regions

Specific Challenge

This RIA complements previous and on-going EU research on cultural heritage in rural, mountainous and urban settings. European coastal and maritime regions have - over several millennia - developed a rich, multi-layered and varied cultural heritage. At the crossroads of different types of contacts of European peoples with each other and with other regions of the world (from commerce to conquest, from cultural exchange to mass tourism) they represent an extremely rich tangible heritage (coastal towns and villages, submerged landscapes and underwater artefacts, harbours, dams, light houses, arsenals, buildings of the fishing and marine industry, boat builders, etc.). As a result of a combination of natural landscapes and human ingeniousness, including unique types of transcultural communication and ethnic diversity, specific coastal cultural landscapes emerged on the shores and sea beds of Europe. This tangible heritage is intimately embedded into the multiple layers of intangible heritage, from myths to daily practices, languages, traditions and crafts of local cultures of communities of sailors, fishermen, boat builders, merchants, etc. Today, coastal cultural landscapes are very much exposed to environmental challenges such as climate change (rising sea levels), other forms of pollution, dense or scattered urbanisation, tourism pressure, the fundamental transformation of the European fishing industry due to over-exploitation of fish stocks and erratic policies of sea or shore conservation at national level. With several coastal zones being among the densest populated areas, mixed metropolitan coastal landscapes have emerged around historic port cities posing new challenges for conservation, management and transmission of existing tangible and intangible values. Against this backdrop, research should provide local communities and local, national and European policy-makers with a coherent framework for risk assessment and sustainable management of European coastal cultural heritage in a way that involves local stakeholders.


The research will aim at providing a comprehensive framework for the preservation of European coastal and maritime cultural landscapes. It should be geographically balanced and cover different types of European coastal and maritime cultural landscapes taking into account various historical backgrounds and the current state of these regions, as they range from the most popular destinations of mass tourism to the most peripheral regions of Europe. The research - multidisciplinary to the extent required by its inherent and explicit research approach - might combine approaches and methodologies of cultural heritage preservation, social sciences and humanities, spatial and environmental sciences. It will cover both tangible and related intangible cultural heritage in order to provide a full picture of the societal importance of the cultural heritage of the landscapes under investigation. The research should involve and further develop networks of scholars, local stakeholders and policy makers. It will contribute to European efforts to promote evidence-based research on the impact of participatory approaches in cultural heritage policies and governance, as suggested by the Council of the European Union's conclusions on participatory governance of cultural heritage (2014/C 463/01). In addition, it will contribute to a better implementation of European policies on coastal zones and maritime areas, referring both to the 'Integrated Coastal Zone Management ICZM' ('Recommendation concerning the 'Integrated Coastal Zone Management' (2002/413/EC)) and to the 'Establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning' (Directive 2014/89/EU), thus providing evidence on how to link environmental and cultural policies.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the order of EUR 2.5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. This does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

As a result of its reasonably multidisciplinary approach and mapping efforts, the research will significantly deepen knowledge on the cultural heritage of European coastal and maritime regions. It will lay the basis of a comprehensive framework for the documentation and sustainable management and preservation of European coastal and maritime cultural landscapes taking into account cultural, environmental, spatial and broader societal aspects. The research will provide policy advice and create networks, concepts and tools on how to maintain and preserve this rich and diverse element of the European cultural heritage based on stakeholder involvement and participatory governance. Case studies and tailor-made pilot projects of the research will allow putting in practice the proposed new tools, concepts and methodologies. Special attention will be given to the preservation and exploitation of both tangible and related intangible cultural heritage like traditional skills and know-how embodied in practices and corresponding knowledge systems. The project(s) will also explore the possibilities of new, sustainable, cultural heritage-related career and business opportunities in the studied regions.

Application date
Social sciences