Protecting our heritage in a competitive world

Written by Nicholas Barrett on . Posted in Current publications, Publications

51mpz4tGMYL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_In 2007 a German church in the village of Heuersdorf was wrapped in steel corsets, torn from the earth before being taxied 12 kilometres down the road. Today, Heuersdorf no longer exists. Anyone attempting to visit with an outdated map will find themselves standing on the edge of a huge coalmine and over 7 miles away from the church, the existence of which was first noted in 1297.

Moving the church cost the coal company €3 million and it is the sight of God’s caravan on wheels and in motion that features on the front page of Valentina Vadi’s new book Cultural Heritage in International Law and Arbitration. “The images and video of the holy journey crossed boundaries” she says, in an interview with EUI Times, “The church on wheels epitomises the vulnerability of cultural heritage. That is our memory of the past, vis-`a-vis economic development… When everything has to go, there is something that remains. In the words of a poet, what we love shall remain, what we love is our true heritage.”

It is this, near universal, tension between development and heritage that Vadi became keen to explore after discovering an interest as a researcher at the EUI. Vadi explains how she picked up the interest while working on her main thesis, “I came across a large number of cases dealing with different aspects of cultural heritage. I started investigating this phenomenon and publishing shorter pieces alongside my PhD commitments. After the PhD defence, I realised that the time was ripe for moving the cultural heritage project forward.”

“Globalisation” Vadi explains “is going to make heritage a key theme of the 21st century. The protection of cultural heritage is not only a key element for promoting sustainable development but also a crucial tool to address the key challenges of the future.”

Using numerous case studies for around the world Vadi follows the front line of what is now a global struggle between cultural heritage and economic growth. This involves exploring the legal and cultural implications of foreign investment, local preservation and state protectionism. We now live in a hyper-connected and globalised world with each country developing in a state of constant competition. These themes now look likely to touch every political and economic landscape on earth and as old and established as international investment law is, it will have inevitably have to move down the road to meet these challenges.