Member states squabble over Cities of Culture

Author (Person)
Series Title
Series Details Vol.4, No.20, 20.5.98, p7
Publication Date 21/05/1998
Content Type

Date: 21/05/1998

By Myles Neligan

AN INITIATIVE aimed at ending annual arguments between national governments over the selection of Europe's City of Culture has itself sparked a bitter squabble.

A decision on the European Commission's proposal, which would transfer responsibility for selecting the city to an independent international jury, is being held up by a dispute over whether just one city should be culture capital each year or several.

The Commission favours choosing a single candidate, but a block of member states led by Spain argues that several cities should be selected in order to reflect EU diversity. Others, including the UK and the Netherlands, are firmly resisting this suggestion.

"We urgently need an independent jury," said a Commission official. "At present, there is a big fight every year, and the problem will get worse following enlargement. Frankly, it's a mess."

EU culture ministers will meet next Thursday (28 May) to try to resolve the issue, but diplomats are far from confident that a deal can be reached, with one describing previous ministerial exchanges on the issue as "cantankerous".

The negotiations will be all the more delicate as ministers will have to agree unanimously on the way ahead.

Cities of Culture have already been selected for 1999 and 2000, when the title will be shared by eight different places to mark the millennium. But a decision on how to handle the selection procedure thereafter is urgently needed so that preparations for choosing the City - or Cities - of Culture in the year 2001 can begin.

Commission officials say that if ministers opt for multiple culture capitals, it will take much longer to come to a decision.

They also warn that deciding on the composition of the independent jury, which will be made up of Euro MPs and officials from the Commission and Council of Ministers, will itself be a time-consuming process.

Away from the ministerial forum, the Commission proposal has been criticised by MEPs who feel that the independent selection procedure is excessively bureaucratic. "It would be far better if the City of Culture simply rotated every six months according to whichever country held the presidency of the EU," said UK Socialist MEP Hugh Kerr.

Subject Categories