3.4.3 European / international actors and programmes
Italy has always been involved in a huge amount of European joint cultural programmes with the Council of Europe and the European Union.
As far as the EU is concerned, Italy has been at the forefront of exploring new ways of financing programmes in support of culture and heritage, also aimed at pursuing the economic development and social inclusion objectives characterising the EU Structural Funds. The creation of a special Priority Axis Culture within the "European Community Support Framework 2000-2006" for the Objective 1 Regions has been a fruitful idea put forward by the then Italian Ministry for Heritage, and subsequently adopted by the European Commission. Furthermore, according to an analysis by the "Budapest Cultural Observatory", on a list of the 1 078 Culture 2000 programmes released by the European Commission, Italy – gaining a 20% share on the total financed programmes - has been the most successful and frequent winner. For technical assistance and advice for applications, a Cultural Contact Point operates at MiBAC's General Secretariat.
Among the many cultural programmes carried out by the Council of Europe with active Italian participation – like the Eurimages fund for film production and distribution, etc. – the "Cultural Routes", launched in 1987 – and recently renewed with additional support by the European Commission and the European Parliament - should be singled out. The programme combines the COE's pursuit of fostering European identity by enhancing its diversity, as well as promoting intercultural dialogue, and Italy's bias to consider the cultural heritage as one of the main assets in order to promote – along with the strengthening of peaceful coexistence – a more sustainable development. While presently focusing on the rehabilitation of the Via Francigena (the medieval pilgrims route connecting England with Rome through Belgium, France and Switzerland), Italy is involved in other routes as well, like the Phoenician Routes.
As for UNESCO, it is worth mentioning that MAE's Directorate Central for the Promotion of Italian Culture and Language, and MiBAC's UNESCO World Heritage Bureau, set up in 2004, are responsible for monitoring the UNESCO Conventions dealing with cultural heritage - starting from the first one: the 1972 World Heritage Convention - along with their implementation. Furthermore, an ad hoc inter-ministerial committee – also involving the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministries for Environment and for Agriculture - has been established for monitoring the implementation of the two most recent conventions dealing with cultural matters: the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (both subscribed by our country in 2007). As far as the latter is concerned, according to art.9, the first quadrennial report focusing on the implementation of the principles of the Convention in Italy will be available at the end of 2012.
It should be noted that Italy is the country with the highest number of monuments and sites inscribed on the World Heritage List (47 sites in 2011). On the other hand, for the time being, only three items (the "Sicilian Puppets", the "Sardinian pastoral songs" and the "Mediterranean Diet" – the latter in partnership with Spain, Greece and Morocco) are inscribed on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage: but many more candidates are waiting for their turn.