Mr. Chairman,

Dear Catherine Morin-Desailly, Chair of the Committee on Culture, Education and Communication,

Dear Dominique Verien, author of this bill,

Mr Rapporteur, dear Jean-Pierre Leleux,

Ladies and gentlemen senators,

 

Heritage is about who we are.

It is our common heritage.

Our connection yesterday as well as tomorrow.

It is what we receive and what we leave.

What was there before us and what will remain long after us.

It is a part of our history, our memory, our identity.

It is a lever for growth and employment; revitalization and cohesion; development and attractiveness.

We have a responsibility to value it.

To protect him.

The Ministry of Culture has been committed to it for sixty years now.

And that commitment will last a long time.

Next year, my ministry will spend €1 billion on heritage – historic monuments, museums, archaeology, archives and architecture.

In this heritage action, my department has essential partners.

I am thinking first of the local and regional authorities.

I am also thinking, of course, of the Heritage Foundation.

As I was able to do last week in committee, allow me to have a thought for the President of the Republic, Jacques Chirac, and his Minister of Culture at the time, Philippe Douste-Blazy.

The Foundation owes its creation to them.

It also owes it to your chamber. It owes it to the Senate.

It owes it, in particular, to Senator Jean-Paul Hugot, who 25 years ago gave my predecessor Jacques Toubon a report on the "Conditions for the creation of a French heritage foundation."

He advocated the creation of a structure to mobilize businesses and the general public in favour of small unprotected heritage.

Two years later, this structure became a reality.

By the law of 2 July 1996, the Heritage Foundation was created.

It would be recognized as a public utility by decree a few months later.

Since then, under the successive presidencies of Édouard De Royère, Charles de Croisset, and today of Guillaume Poitrinal – whom I thank for their commitment – the Foundation has been able to develop its action.

By engaging public subscription campaigns and crowdfunding collections, mobilizing corporate philanthropy, or by issuing its own label.

Since its creation, the State has entrusted it with the task of issuing a label in favour of unprotected heritage under the title of historical monuments.

The latter is entitled to a tax deduction scheme for income tax.

The Foundation also contributed to the Heritage Lotto initiative, which it steers. It pre-selects projects. And it manages the "heritage in danger" fund, which is backed up by lottery revenues.

After two editions, its success does not go away.

I warmly thank Stéphane Bern, who is one of the architects of this success.

And I thank the DRAC – and in particular the regional conservation officers of historic monuments and departmental units of architecture and heritage.

In addition to their activity of accompanying owners and scientific and technical control, they provide valuable work for the selection of projects. 

In addition, the Heritage Foundation also played a crucial role, as of April 16, in favour of Notre-Dame.

It is one of three recognized foundations of public utility that have helped the State to operate the national subscription.

His intervention was decisive, and I want to thank him for that.

Today, with the experience it has acquired and its original model, the Heritage Foundation has become an indispensable actor in the protection of heritage.

In a report last December, the Court of Auditors took note of this and made a series of recommendations:

  • Strengthen the Foundation’s activity in regions where it remains weak.
  • Have the works certified by an architect of the buildings of France or, failing that, by a delegate of the Foundation as being in conformity with the project.
  • Introduce greater selectivity of files in a context of declining resources, ensuring that a significant rate of co-financing of the foundation is maintained.
  • Improve the accounting presentation of the use of foundation resources.

More generally, the Court of Auditors recommends a review of the labelling scheme with a view to making it more efficient.

It considers that a simplification of the composition of the Foundation’s Board of Directors would also help in this direction.

The proposed legislation we will be discussing builds on these recommendations.

I would like to thank Senator Vérien, a member of the Heritage Foundation’s board of directors, for tabling it.

I would like to commend Vice-President Leleux, who is its rapporteur and who has done a remarkable job of clarifying the text.

I am thinking, among other things, of the best definition you have proposed for the heritage concerned by the label issued by the Foundation.

You have also proposed, Mr Rapporteur, that the Heritage Code should be adapted to the concrete needs of the Foundation, to the reality on the ground and to the amendments introduced by the PACTE Act. I really appreciate that.

I also greet Senator Alain Schmitz, Regional Delegate of the Fondation pour l'Ile-de-France.

The bill aims to modernize the tools and governance of the Heritage Foundation.

First, his label.

Currently, the heritage code states that the Foundation “may label unprotected heritage and sites”.

The conditions for granting it are now defined only by the official public finance bulletin.

Thus, the label can be issued for three types of buildings:

  • Those that constitute the "small local heritage", in urban or rural areas. These include pigeon houses, wash houses, bread ovens, chapels and mills.
  • Those which are the most characteristic of the rural heritage: they are therefore located in municipalities of less than 2000 inhabitants. These include farms, barns, village houses, small rural mansions…
  • And those located in a remarkable heritage site.

The bill proposes to change these criteria.

Article 1er proposes to modify the heritage code in order to clarify the scope of the label.

Once again, thank you, rapporteur, for your efforts to clarify this article.

The label could now be issued for:

  • Buildings, whether built or not, located in rural areas and not protected by historic monuments.
  • Buildings located within notable heritage sites.
  • Buildings located in sites classified under the Environmental Code.
  • And buildings in rural areas, towns and small towns with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants.

This threshold increase is a great step forward.

It requires more resources for heritage.

It was, I know, expected as part of the territorial revitalization programs.

It is particularly consistent with the “Small Towns of Tomorrow” program, which the Government, through the action of my colleague Jacqueline Gourault, is in the process of implementing and which targets cities with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants.

This article would result in a significant extension of the scope of the label.

More of our heritage will be valued and protected.

We should be happy about that.

Especially since this would only generate a reasonable tax expenditure, given the impact of this measure on the territories and the economy.

In fact, the Foundation issues about 1000 to 1200 labels each year.

And the Court of Auditors estimates that the amount of work done by individuals today represents 60 million euros, for a tax expenditure of 6.4 million euros per year.

The expansion of the Foundation’s scope of intervention should make it possible to roughly double the volume of the Foundation’s interventions and thus the amount of the tax expenditure associated with it.

Nevertheless, a government reservation remains.

Indeed, we continue to believe that the minimum participation rate of the Foundation needed to award the label must be set by decree – not by law.

This would allow it to evolve as needed without having to change the law.

The second point that the bill proposes to modernize is the governance of the Foundation.

The purpose of clause 3 is to change the composition of its board of directors to tighten it up.

It seems very desirable to bring it closer to the common law of foundations recognized as being of public utility, as provided for in the bill.

The proposed amendment is part of a broader amendment to the Articles of Association – which are both statutory and regulatory.

In order to improve the governance of the Foundation, the number of board members would be reduced.

If it agrees with this objective, the Government has proposed an amendment that was accepted by the committee, and which simplifies the different categories of members by retaining three categories:

  • Representatives of the founders, patrons and donors, who would hold the majority of the seats on the board of directors, in accordance with the spirit of the Foundation;
  • Qualified personalities from different backgrounds;
  • Local and regional authorities.

As is customary, the number of members for each of these categories should be defined by decree.

The State would relinquish its power to appoint qualified persons: they would henceforth be co-opted by the other members of the council, like other foundations recognized as being of general interest.

The President of the Foundation should be appointed from among them.

On this issue of simplifying governance, I would like to thank the rapporteur Jean-Pierre Leleux and the members of the Committee on Culture, Education and Communication for their constructive work.

Like you, I think it is essential that rural municipalities continue to be represented on the Foundation’s administrative board. 

I would also like to thank the rapporteur for your work on Article 4.

Indeed, the possibility for recognized foundations of public utility to hold such securities is now provided by the law PACTE, which amended the law of 1987 on the development of patronage.

Clause 5 deals with the ability of the foundation to reallocate “grants that have become moot”, because the projects have lapsed or have already been fully funded.

As it stands, its wording is fragile with respect to the donor’s intention.

It therefore carries a strong risk of unconstitutionality.

It would allow the Foundation to unilaterally modify the allocation of donations to certain projects, without necessarily having the explicit consent of the donor and the contracting authorities concerned.

It is important that the consent of donors be given explicitly, either at the time of the donation or at the time of its reallocation, as our discussions on the law for the conservation and restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris have clearly shown.

We will use the time of the shuttle to work with the Department of Justice and the Heritage Foundation, to identify a legally appropriate solution to the challenge facing the Foundation in reallocating donations that have become moot.

The intention of donors is an essential principle and guarantee of philanthropic action and patronage.

It is important to preserve it.

Finally, Article 6 concerns the removal of provisions specific to the Foundation which have never been implemented.

These are:

  • The immunity of assets acquired by the Foundation to safeguard them;
  • And the benefit of an expropriation procedure for the benefit of the Foundation.

The Government shall give a favourable opinion on these provisions.

 

Ladies and gentlemen senators,

The Heritage Foundation is a vital partner for my department.

An indispensable partner and fully complementary to the action we are leading in favour of heritage.

To become more efficient, the Ministry of Culture is transforming itself.

The Heritage Foundation needs it too.

That is the whole purpose of the bill to modernize its tools and governance.

Subject to the various points I have just mentioned, the Government is therefore in favour of its adoption.