Written question to the European Commission

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives, including the cultural one.

While countries are slowly easing restrictions on movement and socializing, it remains unknown how long it will take before we return to normal life. Epidemiologists also warn us that a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic could follow in late autumn, leading to the reintroduction of travel restrictions.

We must acknowledge that the situation this year is not in favor of European Capitals of Culture. The planned cultural events had to be postponed, and those who intended to attend them had to cancel their plans. In the current circumstances, we can expect tourism to revive in July, but we do not yet know how it will be in autumn and winter.

1. How does the Commission intend to address this situation?

2. Is it considering postponing the European Capital of Culture program for the whole year due to this year’s uncertainty regarding the restoration of normal life, travel and cultural events?

3. How will this affect future capitals of culture? Can the Commission consider canceling this year’s European Capitals of Culture program and relaunching it next year, thus moving the planned capitals forward for a year?

Answer given by Commissioner Maria Gabriel on behalf of the European Commission

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission has been in regular contact with the organizers of both European Capitals of Culture 2020 (Rijeka and Galway) as well as with the organizers of all future European Capitals of Culture in 2021-2023. The Commission is therefore fully aware of the dramatic consequences of the pandemic for the implementation and preparation of cultural activities in the years they are titled.

The two European Capitals of Culture 2020, Rijeka and Galway, have had to postpone or cancel their events since mid-March 2020, not knowing if and when the situation will return to normal. The pandemic has also caused a great deal of uncertainty in the preparation of the three European Capitals of Culture for 2021 (uncertain funding opportunities, unknown safety regulations or possible travel restrictions). The cities that will carry this title in 2022 and 2023 are feeling less of the impact, as they still have time to rethink their programs and consider different future scenarios.

The Commission, together with the relevant ministries and organizational teams of the European Capitals of Culture 2020, 2021 and 2022, is examining the best ways to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the implementation and preparation of cultural activities during their title years.

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