THE joint Derry-Belfast bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2023 could well be scuppered before it starts, an official in Brussels hinted yesterday.
Senior Derry and Belfast council representatives from the two cities head for Brussels today seeking to win hearts and minds ahead of the EU’s decision-makers.
But it could be a waste of ratepayers cash.
Michel Magnier, director for culture and creativity at the EU’s Director-General for Education and Culture, says it may be a futile trip given Brexit
“With the process having begun for the UK to leave the European Union, this 2023 bid could be a problem,” he told the Irish News’s business editor Gary McDonald..
“We have to prepare for the long period, five to six years, and it’s very difficult to see how it will work given that we have complete legal and political uncertainty over what we should be doing.”
Magnier’s comments – which ironically he made in the Northern Ireland Executive’s Brussels office during a workshop on culture – will come as a massive shock to Derry and Belfast, as indeed they will to Leeds, Nottingham, Dundee and Milton Keynes, who are all bidding as the UK’s choice in six years’ time.
Launching the local bid earlier this month, Belfast Council’s chief executive Suzanne Wylie said she didn’t anticipate the Brexit issue coming into play, given that the process has already begun.
But Magnier insisted a review of the process is due from 2021, which will include having as many as four cities in different countries declared European Capital of Culture.
That would certainly have helped the Derry/Belfast/ cause for 2023 in the normal run of events, but by that stage the UK should have left the EU and is therefore thought highly unlikely to be considered, with Hungary getting the nod instead as the host country.
Magnier was speaking at one of dozens of seminars being held this week in the Belgian capital as part of the 15th European Week of Regions and Cities.
His particular workshop heard how culture has the power to unite and cross boundaries, and can be an important driver for coherence.
“It’s no longer an excuse for a year-long party, but an opportunity to think more strategically about cities’ development, creating social and political consensus, having public engagement and creating good governance,” he added.