2020 hosts Rijeka, Galway may extend into 2021
Written by Christopher Osterberg The coronavirus crisis has hit culture sideways everywhere and two places in particular that deserve some sympathy are Rijeka in Croatia and Galway in Ireland, which had planned hard and then looked forward to a whole 12 months in the spotlight as the European Capitals of Culture for 2020. Fortunately for them there may be a reprieve of sorts, with the European Commission offering the possibility to extend their interrupted year until 30 April 2021. 20. September 2020 9:25
The Commission has also proposed to postpone the year in which Novi Sad, Serbia, is due to host a European Capital of Culture from 2021 to 2022, and the year in which Timisoara, Romania, and Elefsina, Greece, would hold the title be pushed back from 2021 to 2023.
The 2022 European Capitals of Culture, Kaunas in Lithuania and Esch in Luxembourg, as well as Hungary’s Veszprém in 2023, are less affected as they still have time to adjust their programmes to take account of different future scenarios concerning the coronavirus.
Two places a year are chosen to host the event, with Novi Sad having been added to Timisoara and Elefsina because of Serbia’s status as a candidate country to join the European Union. Serbia was identified as a potential candidate for EU membership in 2003, and accession negotiations formally began in 2014.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Commission has kept in close contact with the teams of all European Capitals of Culture from 2020 to 2023 so as to better understand the impact on the delivery and preparation of current and upcoming European Capitals of Culture.
Rijeka and Galway 2020 have been severely hit, having had to postpone or cancel all events since March this year without any idea of when they could resume their programmes, and under which conditions. Basically, they have been prevented from implementing their carefully arranged schedules and from capitalising on their long preparations.
In Timisoara, Elefsina and Novi Sad, the 2021 capitals, the pandemic has led to a high level of uncertainty in almost all areas of preparation, for example financing perspectives and future safety regulations. On top of this, travel restrictions have dramatically reduced tourism flows and opportunities for European and international partnerships. Coronavirus measures have slowed down their preparatory work when they should, under normal circumstances, have been accelerating.
The Commission’s proposal for the new dates now passes to the European Parliament and the Council for consideration and final adoption.
Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, said: “Rijeka and Galway deserve a fair chance to bounce back and showcase their resilience and creativity. Opening hearts and minds, welcoming diverse audiences and artists has always been the lifeblood of the European Capitals of Culture. And it shall remain so.
“I am confident that for Novi Sad, Timisoara and Elefsina, additional time will allow to weather the current downturn in the cultural and tourism sectors and mobilise relevant investment, including through solidarity at European level.”
Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “Culture has been badly hit by the pandemic and European Capitals of Culture are no exception. Despite the energy, enthusiasm and professionalism of their teams and partners, Rijeka and Galway were unable to roll out their 2020 European Capital of Culture programmes as planned.
“I hope that both cities will make the most of the possibility offered to them to prolong their special year. I am sure that Timisoara, Elefsina and Novi Sad, the European Capitals of Culture next in line, will benefit from extra time to prepare their ambitious programmes.”
The “European Capitals of Culture” initiative was launched in 1985. It has since become one of the most high-profile cultural initiatives on the continent. The cities are selected on the basis of a cultural programme that must have a strong European dimension, promote the participation and active involvement of the city’s inhabitants, communities and various stakeholders, as well as contribute to the long-term development of the city and its surrounding region.
Holding the title of European Capital of Culture is regarded as an excellent opportunity for the cities to change their image, put themselves on the world map, promote sustainable tourism and rethink their development through culture. The title has a long-term impact, not only on culture but also in social and economic terms, both for the city and the region.
With 27 European Union member states and two European Capitals of Culture each year, the opportunity to be one of the hosts does not come round often. Hungary joined the European Union in 2004 and its first European Capital of Culture was Pécs in 2010, and its next will be Veszprém in 2023.