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Venice, Budapest escape classification as endangered World Heritage

Venice and Budapest narrowly escaped being classified as World Heritage sites in danger on Thursday after UNESCO refrained from placing the two leading European tourist attractions on its list of endangered cultural and natural sites at its meeting in China.

Beijing, 23 July 2021 (dpa/MIA) — Venice and Budapest narrowly escaped being classified as World Heritage sites in danger on Thursday after UNESCO refrained from placing the two leading European tourist attractions on its list of endangered cultural and natural sites at its meeting in China.

The responsible committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) made the decision on Thursday at its ongoing 44th session in the Chinese city of Fuzhou.

Venice was able to avoid the classification by banning the passage of 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 take effect on Aug. 1, as well as the planned measures for long-term solutions for shipping traffic, in which options outside the lagoon will have priority and other ports in the region will be called at.

UNESCO had previously still expressed concern about the impact of tourism and the cruise industry and the potential damage to buildings, as well as planned infrastructure and construction projects in Venice. Reference was also made to the impact of climate change and extreme weather events on the lagoon and building fabric.

Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini welcomed the decision.

But “worldwide attention for Venice must remain high,” Franceschini said, adding that it was everyone’s duty to work towards protecting the lagoon and finding a way for sustainable development.

For years, activists, locals and the tourism industry have been fighting over cruise ships in the lagoon. Critics complained that the giant ships destroyed the lagoon, damaged the city’s foundations and polluted the air. They also said cruise tourism brought little economic benefit because passengers did not sleep in hotels.

Venice and the lagoon have enjoyed the coveted World Heritage status since 1987.

Hungary’s capital, Budapest, with its Danube embankment, castle district and Andrassy Avenue, also escaped being placed on the list, at least for the time being: The committee plans to discuss the matter again in a year’s time. 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.

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