A view from the water of St. Mark’s Square in Venice. Venice and Budapest narrowly escaped being classified as endangered world heritage by Unesco. Despite concerns about the two cultural and natural sites, the committee responsible refrained from putting them on the red list on Thursday. Photo: Luca Bruno / AP / dpa
Despite concerns about the two cultural and natural sites, the responsible committee of the UN Organization for Education, Science, Culture and Communication (Unesco) on Thursday at its 44th meeting in the Chinese city of Fuzhou refrained from targeting the two leading European tourist attractions Set red list of endangered sites.
Venice was able to avoid the classification by the passage ban for large cruise ships through parts of the lagoon, which was announced just over a week ago. The committee justified its decision with the ban, which will come into force on August 1, and the planned measures for long-term solutions for shipping, in which options outside the lagoon have priority and other ports in the region are to be called.
Unesco had previously expressed concern about the effects of tourism and the cruise industry and the possible damage to buildings as well as planned infrastructure and construction projects in Venice. Reference was also made to the effects of climate change and extreme weather events on the lagoon and the building fabric.
The Italian government had announced the ban on the Canale della Giudecca, the Bacino di San Marco (St. Mark’s Basin) and the Canale di San Marco in the historic center just before the start of the UNESCO consultations. It also applies to ships that exceed certain emission standards. Others are allowed to continue to pass.
The Italian Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini welcomed the Unesco decision. “Worldwide attention for Venice must remain high,” said Franceschini. It is everyone’s duty to work to protect the lagoon and to find a way for sustainable development.
For years, activists, locals and the tourism industry have been fighting over the cruise ships in the lagoon. It has several small strips of land and islands and is largely separated from the open sea. There is also the historic old town of Venice with its tourist attractions. Venice and the lagoon have enjoyed the coveted status of world heritage since 1987.
Critics complained that the giant ships destroyed the lagoon, damaged the city’s foundations and polluted the air. Cruise tourism brings few economic benefits because passengers do not sleep in hotels and often only spend little money.
Hungary’s capital Budapest, with its banks of the Danube, the Castle District and Andrássy Allee, also escaped entry on the Red List, at least for the time being. The World Heritage Committee wants to discuss this again in a year. The main reason given was that a management plan for the World Heritage Site could not be completed as planned due to the pandemic. So Hungary was given more time.
Unesco is concerned about large construction projects, tall buildings, demolition work, inappropriate development in the Jewish quarter, inappropriate use of public facilities, lack of conservation efforts and increased traffic. One document referred to “imminent threats” to unique universal value. Differences of opinion with the Hungarian side about the concerns of Unesco were also mentioned.
The World Heritage Committee will meet online and on site until July 31st. It is made up of 21 elected signatory states to the World Heritage Convention. As a rule, it decides annually on the registration of new cultural and natural sites in the World Heritage List and deals with the condition of the registered sites. Because of the pandemic, the conference was postponed last year. The World Heritage List currently includes 1,120 cultural and natural sites in 167 countries. 51 of them are considered threatened. Germany has 46 world heritage sites.
Among the around 40 nominations for new World Heritage sites at the conference, there are also five applications with German participation: The Mathildenhöhe artists’ colony in Darmstadt, the Jewish cultural heritage in Mainz, Speyer and Worms, the health resorts of Baden-Baden, Bad Ems and Bad Kissingen as part of important historical ones Baths in Europe as well as the Roman border walls of the Danube Limes and Lower German Limes. These applications are to be discussed from the coming weekend.