2. The ‘Valletta Convention’: the next 25 years
How has the ‘Valletta Convention’ been implemented across Europe? What strengths and weaknesses are revealed by comparative analysis? What opportunities and threats lie ahead? Does the Convention need rewriting?
On January 16th 2017 the ‘European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage’ (also known as ‘Valletta’ or ‘Malta Convention’) will have its 25th anniversary. With 45 signatures and 45 ratifications it is one of the most successful conventions of the Council of Europe. The aim of the Convention “is to protect the archaeological heritage as a source of the European collective memory and as an instrument for historical and scientific study” (Article 1). It makes the (in situ) conservation of the archaeological heritage, at all governmental levels, one of the goals of planning policies and part of the various stages of development schemes. The Convention sets guidelines for the funding of excavation, research and publication of research findings. It also deals with actions to be undertaken to develop public awareness of the value of the archaeological heritage. Finally, the signatory states are obliged to co-operate in archaeological heritage management and exchange experience and experts.
The way in which the Convention has been implemented varies highly across signatory states. Here for example the way and level of governmental decision making is important with regard to the necessary cooperation between archaeology and spatial planning. As far as archaeological research is concerned, it is important whether the state considers archaeology to be a public task or whether a commercial archaeological sector has been allowed to develop. Some attempts have been made to compare the ways in which the Malta Convention has been implemented across Europe and to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different national models.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Valetta Convention at the Maastricht meeting special attention is given to one of EAA’s traditional themes – the management of the archaeological heritage. In order to learn from Europe-wide experiences, a more systematic way to compare and evaluate the different models is sought for. Did circumstances in the meantime change so much that a revision or a replacement of the Convention would be justified or could it be integrated into other conventions? Do for example the European Landscape Convention, Florence 2000, the Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, Faro 2006, or other conventions provide a way of overcoming or improving the ‘Valetta Convention’?
Different aspects will have to be taken into account: the post-2008 crisis of development-led Archaeology, the Europe-wide trend to minimize and reduce legislation and norms to protect heritage, the limited social value of archaeological work, and the lack of public engagement with archaeology. The discussion will also have to address the different objectives of rescue, preventive or “Malta” archaeology as opposed to research driven academic excavation projects. We would also like to invite views from outside Europe on the ‘Malta Convention’.