September 6, 2010
The Czech nomination for European Capital of Culture 2015 may have been decided upon in advance, say critics.
On Wednesday a decision will be taken on whether the Czech nomination for the European Capital of Culture 2015 competition will go to Pilsen (home city to a popular lager beer brand) or to industrial Ostrava situated in the region of Moravia and Silesia, close to the Polish border. As Czech economic daily E15 reports, the competition in the Czech Republic is surrounded by suspicions that the decision has been taken in advance in favour of one of the two rivals.
The award involves not only an increase in the prestige of the winning city, but also a substantial economic profit. Both Pilsen and Ostrava can count on big financial injections from the state coffers in the event of victory. Pilsen’s Mayor Pavel Rödl refers to information from the minister of culture, Jiri Besser, who promised to back the winner with 800 million CZK from the state budget to help launch the project successfully.
Rödl’s counterpart, Mayor of Ostrava Petr Kajnar, expects the level of state support to be similar to that granted by Slovakia (1.5 bn CZK) to Košice for the 2013 competition. Both the mayors also mention the possible financial participation of their regions.
However, there are rumours in the corridors that the fight has been already decided in favour of the West Bohemian city of Pilsen. Most members of the thirteen-expert board have supposedly backed Pilsen from the very beginning. Among the thirteen members, seven were selected by the European Commission while the remaining six were nominated by the Czech Ministry of Culture. The mayors acknowledged that they had heard about background influencing of the committee members making the decision, as well as about the irregularities in selecting the committee members.
When confronted directly, they refuse to be more concrete. Asked about the fact that the committee has no member from the Moravian and Silesian regions, Ostrava’s mayor replies only that the members should have been selected by ballot from a wide range of experts. His Pilsen counterpart adds that even he does not know the committee members and that the best project should win, plain and simple.
The winner will have the duty to compile a European-dimension cultural programme for 2015 and invest in the necessary cultural infrastructure. Pilsen is preparing the construction of a new theatre, the reconstruction of a former brewery and barracks into a multicultural facility as well as the build-up of a new sports and cultural centre. Ostrava, on the other hand, intends to launch a social and cultural cluster which will include a gallery, music pavillion, concert hall, hotel and a (so-called Waldorf-type) school with a special focus.
Pilsen and Ostrava are also pinning their hopes on an influx of tourists into their city when labelled European Capital of Culture. For Ostrava, the award would also mean a welcome redesign, from an image of a dirty industrial city to a cultural centre. This in turn would translate into an accompanying inflow of cultural investment. Culture could thus a become a significant generator of the city’s economic output.
InterelAuthor : Letters to the EurActiv editor