Asociación entre la Red de Cooperación de Rutas Europeas del Emperador Carlos V y la Ruta del ChocolateThe European Academy of Yuste Foundation presided over the signing of a partnership agreement between the European Routes of Emperor Charles V Network and the Chocolate Way at the Cervantes Institute headquarters in Brussels on February 5th. The event was co-organized by the Foundation, the Consortium of European Routes of Emperor Charles V and the Chocolate Way.

During the event, the representative of the Council of Europe´s European Institute of Cultural Routes (EICR), Eleonora Berti, explained that in order for members of the network to achieve certification from the Council of Europe, they had to take into account factors such as diversity and identity, cooperation among members, management of public spaces or route accessibility. In her remarks, Mrs. Berti highlighted the complexities surrounding the process to launch a European Cultural Route project and the work carried out to date by the Consortium of European Routes of Emperor Charles V and the Chocolate Way.

Likewise, the President of the European Parliament´s Committee on Culture and Education and Vice-president of the recently established Intergroup on European tourism development, cultural heritage, Way of St. James and other European cultural routes, Silvia Costa, emphasized the existing cooperation between the Emperor Charles V Route and the Chocolate Way- which “does a lot for both routes”, given that cooperation is one of the features that the EU seeks to highlight- , as well as the different funding initiatives launched by the European Parliament and other European institutions to fund cultural and tourism projects, including the Horizon 2020  and Creative Europe programs. Finally, Mrs. Costa stressed the importance of engaging different types of partners in the projects, “both politically at all levels -that is, local, regional and national entities -as well as at the representational level”, noting that “civil society and the voluntary sector play an essential role” and that “both routes take into account the role played by civil society and the voluntary sector, and are therefore worthy of support”.

The partnership agreement concluded between the two networks also received institutional support from the European Commission. During her speech, DG GROW “Tourism Policy” Unit policy officer Silvia Draghi mentioned the support that the European Commission provides for the Council of Europe´s EICR, and the different funding options available for other types of cultural routes, including those routes which have been nominated for the EICR label. Mrs. Draghi also presented the new Guide on EU funding for the tourism sector for the 2014-2020 period, published by DG GROW, which aims to facilitate access to funding for all entities interested in developing tourism projects.

The initiative also had the support of UNESCO, through Oriol Freixa Matalonga, who highlighted the uniqueness of the project and acknowledged the work being carried out by both networks “to promote Europe´s common cultural heritage and history”. Mr. Freixa also informed participants about the first UNWTO/UNESCO world tourism and culture conference being held in Cambodia, underscoring the importance that these two closely linked concepts are taking on for the future as a driver of development, and inviting participants to follow up closely on the conclusions from this conference which will be published in coming weeks.

Representatives from both networks subsequently outlined the origins, aims and future projects in this area, both at individual and group level, and explained the joint cooperation strategies planned for the 2015-2016 period.

Key regional representatives from Extremadura, Catalonia, Andalusia, the Balearics, Castile-Leon and Tuscany attended the signing of the agreement. Also in attendance were a representative from Louvain Catholic University, a representative from the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg, and the Cultural Counselor of the Spanish Embassy in Brussels, Joaquín Durán. The members of the European Parliament Francisco Millán, Giovanni La Via and Paolo de Castro also expressed their support for the project.

Further information on the European Routes of Charles V is available at: www.itineracarolusv.eu.

Further information on the Chocolate Way is available at: www.thechocolateway.eu.