Reaction to Brussels’ ‘discontinuation’ of European Capital of Culture bid

The European Commission have announced the disappointing news that UK cities will no longer be eligible to apply for European Capital of Culture 2023, due to Brexit.

A letter from Martine Reicherts, the EC’s Director General for Education, Youth, Sports and Culture, confirmed in a letter to her Permanent Secretary that “following its withdrawal from the European Union, the participation of the United Kingdom in the European Capital of Culture union action will not be possible” and that the selection process “should immediately be discontinued.”

The developments comes less than a week before WeAre2023, Belfast/Londonderry’s ECOC bid team, were set to present their bid to the judges in London. The team released a statement in the wake of the news, saying: “We are working with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to explore the options available in the context of the recent announcement by the European Commission. Negotiations between DCMS and the European Commission are ongoing and the five bidding cities have been invited to attend a meeting next week in London to receive an update. We are actively involved in supporting these ongoing discussions. Once these negotiations have concluded we will proceed with the publication of the details of the bid.”

With Brexit negotiations obviously still continuing, and the UK’s status as yet unclear, the news has come as a bitter blow to the bid teams not only in Belfast/Derry, but also in Dundee, Leeds, Milton Keynes and Nottingham. Three non-EU cities have held the title of ECOC before: Istanbul in 2010, Stavanger in Norway in 2008 and Reykjavik, Iceland, in 2000.

Naturally, the reaction to the news – from politicians, the arts sector, and the general public – has been wholly negative, with hope that an appeal can be lodged and the bid given a second chance.


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