2019 the Northeast as European Capital
Venice is running to be European Culture Capital in 2019
For some time now, an extremely fragmented territory as the Northeast has been seeking for stronger connecting elements than the merely material ones represented by its infrastructures. The infinite city seems to have understood that without elements of significance the local future looks more like a spiral in reverse than a growing line, and therefore it is seeking agents able to congeal all its disparate microelements. Something was lost (banks) and something else is currently disappearing (relative GDP and growth primacy). Before all is left dissolves under defensive and sterile forces it is necessary to develop wide-ranging politics and new ideas to sustain it. It is maybe with too much caution that recriminations against the excess of fragmentation are advanced: too many trade fairs, university seats, airports, public local services companies, opera foundations (even if they are only three, two of which in the sole Veneto region). Nonetheless it is not enough to identify the existing overabundance, solutions are needed. A courageous intellectual initiative (they are useful at last!) is proposing one especially aimed at the unification of several very valuable experiences. Alone they are not strong enough to go beyond local borders and reach the world, guaranteeing the Northeast a chance to be a candidate for European Culture Capital nomination in 2019.
In order for such initiative not to be misunderstood a correct institutional framework is needed: the initiative was created in 1985 by the EEC, after a proposal by Melina Mercouri who was then Greek minister of culture. The project aimed at the yearly appointment of a European city as leader for culture. Nowadays the European Union has financed the program called European Culture capital for the term 2005-2019, identifying every two years the states who should choose the culture capitals: in 2019 it will be Italy’s and Bulgaria’s turn. The decision rests with the Italian government and will be made by 2012; until now only Matera has presented its application. In Venice the municipality, together with the previous province administration and Fondazione Venezia have started to do something. The city of Verona embraced the idea but later abandoned it.
The initiative was proposed a few days ago in Vicenza, on the occasion of the young north eastern leaders of society meeting: it appears courageous and complex. It is courageous because it is not rooted into the sole local environment and it will be developed almost at the same time as the political campaign (this said the actual Capital of 2019 title would only be awarded close to the second next electoral poll in the north-east). But the idea is even more complex because it tries to bend the European project dedicated to only one city, in order to include a whole territory formed not by one but three regions. It is true that next year culture capital will be the city of Essen as representative of the broader Ruhr territory (Essen für das Ruhrgebiet Kulturhauptstadt Europas 2010) and this is a great precedent, but conditions are slightly different. Essen has more than half a million inhabitants as Dortmund does, city with which Essen shares a demographic leadership in an area counting five million inhabitants. Moreover in the city several cultural centres are already present.
Therefore if the extended territory option was to be maintained also in the north-eastern case then a leader city would have to be chosen, and judging by present reality and creative fancy, it could only be Venice. Will the Northeast accept to give this role to Venice? And is Venice able to accept such a local and shared position? If indeed positive answers could come there would be no obstacle on the road to this great worldwide event.
[ Publication date: 19 October 2009 ]