The Spanish Historical Heritage Law (LPHE), in force since 1985, is obsolete. It has stood the test of time, it has avoided interventions and no one has been too interested in the norm that regulates the protection of the country’s historical and artistic legacy. It does not prevent or combat or effectively sanction pillage practices, it does not recognize the consideration of new assets such as film, landscape, industrial or underwater. The autonomous communities have approved their own laws without following a pattern and, in addition, the segregation of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Law is maintained, which in 2015 approved the PP to protect bullfighting, without the consensus of the rest of the political groups. In other words, the Heritage Law has become a disgrace that nobody takes care of.
The remains of the medieval church that Franco gave to the United States are falling apart
The standard had to be refined to make it competent today and it had to be done urgently. The first announcement of the works was made in 2018, with José Guirao at the head of the Culture portfolio; the witness was picked up by José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes and in both teams there was a man who was forging it in the silence of his office, the Secretary General of Culture, Javier García Fernández. The first reform of the old law was approved as a draft at the end of June. Two weeks later Uribes and his team were fired by President Pedro Sánchez. A few days ago Miquel Iceta, current Minister of Culture and Sports, announced in the Culture Commission of the Congress of Deputies that he was withdrawing the draft because “he had been born dead.”
It was a resounding and blunt statement and the minister did not clarify why he was going to forget the work done by Uribes’ team in recent years. From the press office of the Ministry of Culture and Sports they have not wanted to expand the reasons for the decision either. “As the minister explained a few days ago in his appearance in Congress, the preliminary draft that was being worked on is being thoroughly reviewed, so that it incorporates new types of heritage (such as intangible, audiovisual and cinematographic, industrial, cultural landscapes and underwater heritage) and that has the collaboration and support of the administrations involved in heritage management, “Culture responds to this newspaper.
Culture has preferred not to clarify to elDiario.es the reasons why the law initiated by the previous team has been withdrawn, nor when they will present the new draft. Government sources clarify that for this legislature they are going to focus their efforts on carrying out the Statute of the Artist and are going to park for a while the rule with which the autonomous communities have pulled the ears of the newcomer Miquel Iceta. The unanimous complaint (not only of those governments of the Popular Party) that was transferred to the minister refers to to the contempt with which communities have been treated in the elaboration of a blueprint that robbed them of competencies.
Control over the protection of assets
Uribes’ idea was to change the name of the complexes declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco and include them in the newly minted category called World Heritage. So that? To give the State a new role in the management of these assets. One of greater control, of more weight in the management of competencies that are exclusive to the communities. The Ministry wanted to stop being a mere intermediary between the good and Unesco.
“Until now, Unesco contacted the Ministry of Culture when it understood that some asset on the list was being misrepresented. Then the Ministry informed the communities of the threat of being expelled. With this new figure, what we want is that there be more coordination in the management between the communities and the Ministry. The control and management will continue to be that of the communities. The World Good is only an instrument of coordination, “Javier García Fernández explained to this newspaper days before being dismissed from his position.
El Bien Mundial, Uribes’ banner in all his management plans, was the poison that made the reform fail. It was intended to become a body similar to a Board of Directors. García Fernández assured that with this invention he did not expand the powers of the State and that he did not fear that his reform would end in the Constitutional Court. The communities governed by the PP showed their discomfort after the announcement of the creation of the “World Good” figure. Sol Cruz Guzmán, the spokesperson for the popular in the Congressional Culture Commission, found this reform “a joke.”
“It was an intervening body and without financial endowment. Mere control and zero commitment,” summarizes Jordi Tresserras, president of the Spanish National Committee of ICOMOS, an advisory body to Unesco and very critical of the secrecy with which García Fernández carried out the reform. Not even the deputies of the PSOE knew the wording of the same. Tresserras says that, when the draft was made public, its members sent a flood of amendments against the bill: more than 400 allegations in which it was denounced, for example, that the underwater heritage had not even been included.
García Fernández and his team from the Ministry had not counted on the autonomous communities but neither had they counted on the patrimony protection associations. Citizenship was once again ignored in the construction of the norms. “Of course they have no record of the reform. No one has been consulted. It is the Government who legislates, not the associations,” answered Fernández, a 72-year-old emeritus professor of Constitutional Law, faithful to his forms and his undeniable authority.
“Now the problem that this obsolete law faces is that everything indicates that the current team is not going to propose a new reform. I am afraid that it has been left in a dead end, because it has to be set up from scratch, agreeing with the communities and with the associations “, explains the president of ICOMOS Spain. Tresserras demands a coordination of competences between the communities and the State, because at the moment it is “a mess.”
The spokesperson for the Mosque-Cathedral Platform, Miguel Santiago, did not find the creation of a state body unfortunate to control the direction and management of the assets declared by Unesco. Santiago is concerned about the absence of master plans for the Cordoba Mosque and the Seville Cathedral. Was “a hope” to protect the historical and cultural heritage of both sites: “This figure made it possible for the Government to participate in the management of both properties and to create the master plans, which they still do not have. The Mosque is operating at the whim of the Cabildo, without citizen control.” But he acknowledges that there has been a “huge” failure in the processing of the regulation, because the consensus of the communities has not been sought, nor has the groups or associations been responded to. “We sent him a series of amendments and they never answered us,” says Miguel Santiago.
Álvaro Bonet is the spokesman for Madrid, Citizenship and Heritage and agrees that a reform could not be approved without consulting “the people who are at the foot of the canyon and know the problems of defending heritage.” “The point of view of the associations has been lacking and from the Faro Convention [de 2005] it is mandatory for citizens to participate, “explains Bonet. He misses the courage of the Ministry of Culture to act against looting, the only competence it maintains against the communities.” Only in this way will we achieve effective protection. If not, heritage will always lose to urban planning. In the Cuatro Caminos Garage, for example, the Ministry of Culture with powers to stop looting did not act, “says Álvaro Bonet.