On Tuesday we met with representatives of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport including John Glen MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism. We met to discuss the letter sent last week to the UK Government by the European Commission stating that the participation of the UK in the European Capital of Culture in 2023 will not be possible.
Firstly we want to acknowledge the huge and passionate support we have all received locally, nationally and internationally since the receipt of this letter. In particular we appreciate the support from previous and future European Capitals of Culture, and from members of the independent judging panel which itself had expected to be interviewing our teams this week as part of the formal shortlisting process.
It is further evidence of the power of arts and culture to bring the peoples of Europe closer together. The five cities were united in their desire to find solutions which will enable them to realise their cultural ambitions and further develop their cultural integration with people across Europe.
The meeting with DCMS was positive and we were encouraged by their commitment to try and resolve this issue with the European Commission and agree a clear way forward for the cities involved.
We urged the Department to continue its negotiations with the European Commission on the legitimacy of its latest decision. In particular we wish to highlight that the announcement by the European Commission counters a very recent decision of the European Parliament in June 2017 and of the Council in September 2017 which includes a calendar confirming the UK as the host country in 2023. In addition we are seeking clarity given that the United Kingdom has not yet left the EU and the terms of that departure are not yet agreed.
We have collectively therefore requested that DCMS takes further advice on the legal status of the announcement as a matter of urgency.
The meeting also allowed us to consider jointly how we ensure the local energy, enthusiasm and work done by our cities and partners to date can be positively harnessed and recognised even if the Commission maintains its position. This sudden change of heart has the potential to disrupt well over 100 cultural collaborations across the continent which bidding cities have been developing in good faith.
We all recognise the urgent need to reach a conclusion in a timescale that allows us to harness the momentum in our cities. Therefore intensive and constructive discussions will continue over the coming weeks.
Councillor Deirdre Hargey, chairperson, Belfast City Council Strategic Policy & Resources Commt.
Councillor, John Alexander Leader of the Administration, Dundee City Council
Stewart Murdoch, Chair of the Dundee bid team
Councillor Judith Blake CBE, Leader of Leeds City Council
Sharon Watson, Chair, Leeds2023 Independent Steering Group
Councillor Peter Marland, Leader of Milton Keynes Council
Councillor Jon Collins, Leader of Nottingham City Council
Paul Russ, Chair Nottingham 2023
Image: White, Live at Leeds 16, Credit: Ben Bentley