European Heritage Policies


The Government of Finland approved the national Cultural Environment Strategy 2014–2020 on 20 March 2014. In February 2015 it was supplemented with an implementation plan defining concrete actions, setting schedules and actors as well as monitoring.

The Cultural Environment Strategy bolsters the value and good management of the cultural environment which encompasses the built environment, cultural landscape and archaeological sites. According to the strategy, well-maintained and strong cultural environment are key factors for the people’s well-being,  the development of business and trade, the creation of a comfortable living environment as well as the improvement of  the attractiveness of regions. The action plan focuses on five sections: cultural environment as a resource, high quality of the legislation and its application related to the cultural environment, recognition of the value of the cultural environment, improvement of cooperation to secure sufficient and high quality information on the cultural environment.

The current Museum Policy Programme dates from 2000. A new policy programme for museums and heritage will be drawn during the next term of government.

The protection and preservation of cultural environment are based on legislation, cooperation between environmental and cultural administration, responsible actions by municipalities and owners as well as citizen activity as it is stated in theFinnish constitution. .

Taking care of the cultural environment and architectural heritage is primarily based on town planning and building guidance i.e. the Land Use and Building Act. The Act is under the Ministry of the Environment. The objective of the Act is to ensure that the use of land and building activities create conditions for a favourable living environment and promote ecologically, economically, socially and culturally sustainable development. National interest and inventories are made on cultural heritage e.g.” The Built Cultural Environment of National Importance”, approved by the Government in 2009. (in Finnish)

The protection of cultural heritage provided by the Land Use and Building Act is based on direct plan stipulations, and on indirect means based on the steerage from mainly the community structure and its functions. National Board of Antiquities other museum- and environmental authorities can influence the contents of the plans at the planning stage through official statements. In conflict situations complaints can be taken to the Administrative Court. The Land Use and Building Act has increased the independent position of the Municipalities in making planning decisions limiting state interventions to mainly general planning (provincial plans). Also,the Act has made the requirements more specific, e.g. to take the cultural environment into account in planning. Today, an estimated 25,000 sites have been protected by detailed plans (1% building stock of Finland).

Culturally or historically significant buildings and built up areas may be protected under the Act on the Protection of the Built Heritage (2010). This Act is mainly applied for cultural heritage with specific cultural historic values or interiors, or buildings situated within areas without detailed plan, i.e. in rural areas. A statement from National Board of Antiquities is required. Some 300 buildings or groups of buildings are protected under the Act.

All ancient monuments and sites are protected under the Antiquities Act (1963). The National Board of Antiquities is responsible for maintaining and caring for the archaeological cultural heritage along with certain provincial museums in Finland.

The protection of Lutheran Churches is provided for by the Church Act and those of Orthodox Church by the Act on the Orthodox Church. According to the Acts all Evangelical Lutheran and Orthodox ecclesiastical buildings, the related fixed structures and churchyards constructed before 1917 are protected.

The cultural environment is extensively also referred to in other legislation, Nature Conservation Act, Forest Act, Water Act, road legislations and Land Extraction Act. They include statutes aimed at the protection and preservation of beauty and cultural values.

Sami cultural remains are found in the county of Laponia. The Sami Parliament has the same responsibility as the county administrations for cultural heritage defined as Sami. Siida, the National Museum of the Finnish Sámi

The county of Åland has status of autonomy according to Autonomy Act (1921). The Section for Museum (Museibyrån) administrates the protection of cultural heritage since 1993 and the archaeological remains after consulting the National Board of Antiquities. Click here to go to the sub menu  

organisational chart Finland

Regarding the authorities in charge, The Ministry of Culture and Education is responsible for matters relating to museums and cultural heritage in the central government.

The Finland's National Board of Antiquities is the nation's specialist, service provider, developer and authority in material cultural heritage and the cultural environment field. It collects, manages and presents the national heritage of cultural history and records in addition to producing and providing knowledge.

The Ministry of the Environment and the Regional Environmental authorities work closely with Finland’s National Board of Antiquities on issues related to cultural landscapes and architectural heritage. The National Board of Antiquities also has special responsibility for managing archaeological sites including underwater heritage.

By agreement with National Board of antiquities the regional museums are also supervising cultural heritage and environmental protection. There are 22 regional museums operating by the municipalities.

In another hand, the Ministry of the Environment prepares legislation, policies and programmes related to Finland’s cultural landscapes and built heritage, and is also responsible for monitoring the state of cultural environments and supporting the management of heritage sites and landscapes.  The Ministry has a key role in approving decisions on protection made according to the Act on the Protection of the Built Heritage and in approving regional land use plans. The Ministry also supervises regional land use planning.

National “Cultural Environment Strategy 2014-2020”

At regional level, the regional centres are responsible for supervising land use planning. They are also representing the Government on regional level, which makes the decisions on protection according to the Act on the Protection of the Built Heritage.


Land Use and Building Act (132/1999, Finlex)  and Land Use and Building Decree (895/1999, Finlex)

Act on the Protection of the Built Heritage (498/2010, Finlex, in Finnish)

Which objective is to guarantee the historical and regional diversity of the built cultural environment, nurture the characteristics and special features of the built cultural environment, and promote its culturally sustainable maintenance and use.

The built heritage can be conserved through the protection of buildings, structures, groups of buildings or built up areas deemed significant in regard to the architectural history, architecture, special environmental values, the use of the building, or events related to the building.

Archaeological sites are protected under the Antiquities Act (295/1963, Finlex) which also covers wide areas that contain ancient relics and that have landscape-related value. Furthermore, a number of relics are located in cultural landscapes or are underwater findings.

The Act on Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure (468/1994, Finlex) applies to the environmental impact assessment of a project. An assessment must be carried out if required under an international agreement or if the project could have significant adverse environmental impacts on, among other things, the landscape, townscape or cultural heritage.

Church Act (1054/1993, Finlex, in Finnish)  and Act on the Orthodox Church (985/2006, Finlex, in Finnish)

Finland has ratified the following conventions on cultural heritage:

  • UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict  and its 2nd Protocol (The Hague, 1954), signed and ratified in 1994 and 2004
  • UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970; ratified in 1999
  • UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage 1972; ratified in 1987
  • Council of Europe - Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe (Granada 1985), ratified in 1991
  • Council of Europe - European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Valetta, Malta 1992), ratified in 1994
  • UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects (1995), ratified in 1999
  • Council of Europe - European Landscape Convention (2000), ratified in 2005
  • UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (Paris 2003), ratified in 2013
  • UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (Paris 2005), ratified in 2006
National coordinator: 
Margaretha EHRSTRÖM
Label [EN]: 
Label [FR]: 
Label [own language]: 
Suomi Finland
5 388 417
Area (km2): 
338 431.00
Density (pop/km2): 
Official minorities: 
NamePercentage of overall population
Swedesh-speaking Finns
Sami people
Data = 16.09.2011