THOUSANDS of initiatives and celebrations are set to begin across Europe to raise awareness of the diversity of European history and culture. The European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 launched this week at the European Culture Forum in Milan. The European Commission campaign puts the spotlight on the wealth and diversity of Europe’s cultural heritage and why it is important.

It aims to reach out specifically to children and young people, local communities and people who are rarely in touch with culture, with the aim of fostering a sense of cultural ownership.

Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth, and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said: "Cultural heritage is at the heart of the European way of life. It defines who we are and creates a sense of belonging. Cultural heritage is not only made up of literature, art and objects but also by the crafts we learn, the stories we tell, the food we eat and the films we watch. We need to preserve and treasure our cultural heritage for the next generations.

"This year of celebrations will be a wonderful opportunity to encourage people, especially young people, to explore Europe's rich cultural diversity and to reflect on the place that cultural heritage occupies in all our lives.

"It allows us to understand the past and to build our future."

Projects and initiatives implemented in EU Member States, municipalities and regions will be complemented by transnational projects funded by the EU.