Two harbour cities selected to European Capitals of Culture in 2020
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Two harbour cities selected to European Capitals of Culture in 2020

Both cities have a dramatic history and bear witness to Europe’s past wars.

The European Commission announced on Friday that Rijeka, Croatia, and Galway, Ireland, will hold the title of European Capital of Culture for one year as of 1 January 2020.

“Thanks to their title of European Capital of Culture, Rijeka and Galway will be harnessing the full potential of culture to enrich our life experience and to bring our communities closer together”, stated Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President for “Promoting our European Way of Life”.

“Promoting culture as a core element of our way of life has many positive impacts on society, in terms of social inclusion, integration and economic growth.”

“The European Capital of Culture initiative brings people together and highlights the role of culture in promoting the values on which our European Union is built: diversity, respect, tolerance and openness”, added Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.

Both cities have a dramatic history and bear witness to Europe’s past wars. Rijeka dates back to ancient times and changed hands between the Austro-Hungarian empire, Italy and Yugoslavia in modern times. It was partly destroyed by Nazi-Germany during WWII and its Jewish inhabitants were deported to their death in Auschwitz. Galway dates back to the 12th century and has been fought over by the English and Irish in the past.

Rijeka with 128 000 inhabitants is the first Croatian European Capital of Culture bringing it international visibility, which will extend to the rest of the Western Balkan region. ‘Port of Diversity’ will be the motto, with hundreds of projects among 250 partners from 40 countries. Rijeka’s cultural programme focuses on the themes of water, work and migration, connected to its identity.

The opening exhibition will feature Rijeka’s famous artist, David Maljković, with other highlights including ‘The Sea is Glowing’ exhibition; a world music and gastronomy festival – ‘Porto Etno’; and new permanent installations of contemporary art on the coastline. Opening celebrations will take place on 1-2 February 2020.

Galway with 80 000 inhabitants is the third city in Ireland to hold the European Capital of Culture title (after Dublin in 1991 and Cork in 2005). Galway’s cultural programme motto is ‘Let the Magic In’, exploring quintessential local themes of language, landscape and migration – with a European and universal relevance and resonance.

The ‘Hope it rains’ theme will use Galway weather as a source of creativity; while other highlights include a celebration of world literature – with a dramatic interpretation of the world’s oldest surviving literary epic, the story of Gilgamesh; and excerpts from Homer’s Odyssey, read on Galway beaches.

Meanwhile, new installations will celebrate the beauty of Connemara and County Galway. Galway 2020 will begin in February 2020, at the start of Imbolc – the first Celtic season in Ireland’s ancient, pre-Christian calendar.

The initiative to start the European Capital of Culture was taken in 1985 by Melina Mercouri, then Greek Minister of Culture. It has since become one of the most high-profile cultural initiatives in Europe. Cities are selected based on a cultural programme that must have a strong European dimension and contribute to the long-term development of the city and its surrounding region.

The Brussels Times

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