New bill on conserving historic buildings collapses amid wave of criticism
It has been years in the making and the subject of protracted discussions, but this week one of the ministry of culture’s main flagship legislative proposals hit the buffers with a blunt rejection in the lower house of parliament. The ministry was aghast but some conservation groups welcomed the demise of the proposed new law aimed at protecting historic buildings.
Piloting that bill onto the books has been one of the main missions of the culture ministry since the government approved the measure back in 2015. But those plans collapsed this week when a vote to bury the bill was passed in the lower house with even government lawmakers coming out against it. Minister of Culture Daniel Herman did not hide his dismay and anger:
"I must say that it’s a surprise for me that the proposal to refuse this was passed by two votes. This is a victory in all likelihood for lobbying and political manoeuvring. The bill was the result of an enormous amount of work and discussion. We were prepared to accept a series of amendments, some of which were really interesting. Unfortunately, as I said, it seems that manoeuvring and lobbying has won out. However, the care of historic monuments is not threatened, that’s important to know."
The minister said the bill offered a series of improvements compared with the current situation.
But the bill had raised many hackles, including among conservation groups keeping a close eye on the culture ministry’s performance. One of the main critics was the Association for the Protection and Development of the Czech Cultural Heritage (ASORKD). Marie Švábová is one of its deputy presidents:
"The proposed law just dealt with administrative procedures about how to approve projects and the relations between various institutions concerned and citizens. Above all, it did not protect the most precious aspect of our cultural heritage, our historic towns. It treated individual buildings as if they were isolated artefacts. It did not at all take into account that an essential aspect of such towns is the setting in which they are found."