European Heritage Policies


1.1 2013 marks the centenary of the law of 31 December 1913 on the protection of historic monuments, a truly seminal law on heritage policy. The “Code du patrimoine” (2004) consolidated the texts on heritage conservation (all assets, whether immovable or movable, in public or private ownership, of historical, artistic, archaeological, aesthetic, scientific or technical interest).

A bill is in preparation on cultural heritages (principal aspects: protected areas, protection of the movable heritage, preventive archaeology) and should be adopted in 2015.

Furthermore, heritage policy in the timeframe 2013-2015 is redefined in a context of reform to public finances under which completion of several major projects is maintained (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations - MuCEM, National Archives Centre at Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, continuation of the Museums Plan in regions, reopening of the Picasso museum in Paris …), while working towards equality of territories and enhancement of their heritage and architecture.

1.2 “France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It ensures equality before the law of all citizens without distinction as to origin, race or religion. It respects all beliefs. Its organisation shall be decentralised.” (Article 1 of the 1958 Constitution). Mainland France is divided into three tiers of territorial entities : municipalities, departments and regions. Accordingly, the state has “central” services and “dispersed” services in regions and departments.

The state is responsible for the national heritage policy. The Ministry of Culture and Communication and the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy ensure joint management of the cultural and natural heritage over the territory, and engage in constant dialogue on all heritage matters with civil society, in particular associations, aiming at good governance.

The Ministry of Culture and Communication is specifically responsible for implementing the policy on protection, preservation and restoration of the heritage, chiefly through the agency of the regional directorates of cultural affairs (DRAC) and the territorial architectural and heritage services (STAP) which were recently grouped. Heritage architects perform an important role alongside the architects of the State Buildings authority in guaranteeing compliance with area-based protection measures. While state commitment remains fundamental, linkage between heritage and territorial design is also actuated at the local level, and heritage policies also depend on the dynamism of the local and regional authorities.

Within the Ministry of Culture, the General Directorate for Heritage performs a unifying role and implements this policy of managing the various types of heritages. It is in charge of designing, organising, guiding, optimising and evaluating state policy for the benefit of heritages.

The network of regional directorates of cultural affairs (DRAC), dispersed services of the state, implements at the regional level the policies determined by the Ministry at the central level. It acts in close partnership with the local and regional authorities and the regional cultural players.

Local and regional authorities are gradually taking up their position in the management of heritage policy. Accordingly, in 1983, then in 2004, new responsibilities were transferred to local and regional authorities, particularly the general inventory of the cultural heritage and the possibility of transfers of ownership of protected buildings as historic monuments.

2- Organisation chart of the Directorate General of Heritage:

European and international conventions: dates of ratification by France

  • Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954): ratified by France on 17 June 1957
  • Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970) – ratified by France on 7 January 1997
  • Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972): ratified by France on 27 June 1975
  • Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe (Granada, 1985): ratified on 13 March 1987
  • European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Revised) (Valletta, 1992); ratified on 10 July 1995
  • European Landscape Convention (Florence, 2000): ratified on 17 March 2006
  • Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001): ratified on 7 February 2013
  • Unesco Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003): ratified by France on 11 July 2006

All international agreements and/or treaties ratified must be published in the Official Gazette of the French Republic. Publication is for the purpose of making public the content of the agreement and introducing the agreement into the national legal system

Cf. Code du patrimoine : or

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670 030.00
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France - Centre national du costume de scène, Moulins, Auvergne.
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Population = 65.4 millions d'habitants dont 62.8 millions dans la métropole Surface = 670030 Km², dont 570030 km² pour la métropole Data = 06.11