European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do


Concept - linkage to objectives



Cohesion is a crucial term when wishing to understand not only the prime aim of the Eurpean Union, but also how this term has undergone a transformation and reconfiguration ever since the Eastern European states like Bulgaria joined the EU in 2004. Even before that a major change was noticable as a result of the war in former Yugoslavia, and which culminated in the bombardment of Kosovo in 1999. Immediately thereafter 'social and economic cohesion' enjoyed no longer the same high priority as it had until then. Instead there was talk about a rapid intervention force. The latter can be interpreted as an attempt to unify Europe from without due to safety and security concerns. In the end, the Lisbon Treaty secured that the EU has at the very least a High Representative for Foreign Relations. Thus while cohesion meant originally growing together from within, achieving unity from without reminds of the methods Bismarck used to unite Germany. All the more is, therefore, of interest on how Plovdiv shall seek a cultural fulfilment of the term 'together' and 'togetherness'.

Cohesion within the European Union is meant to be achieved through territorial equality. It is best expressed by the original aims of the Structural Fund. However, German reunification in 1989 meant already that some of the member states started to shift around their political weights. For Germany inner cohesion became more important since former East Germany had to be integrated. At the same time, the European priority was no longer so much about achieving equality, but rather to reinforce expansion and as it would turn out to be some kind of pseudo integration. In reality Germany led the way towards a renationalisation of the European idea. The modification follows nationalist currents which are ready to undermine the European idea of being 'together'. The economic crisis would prompt even further calls for national sovereignty rather than unify structures of governance at European level. 

In this context, Plovdiv wishes to stress 'Together', in order to come out of own experiences of being a disjointed society. Consequently Plovdiv 2019 takes on its shoulders objectives which depart from "cohesion of European nations and cultures" to energizing locally people so as to develop a long-term cultural policy for the city.  It may be the first time, that a ECoC takes on its shoulders something having to do with the term 'capital' in the title. All the more of interest is that such a European Capital of Culture cannot wait and see any longer what the other cities and EU member states are going to do to ensure cohesion, must take during the preparations and especially in 2019 the lead to ensure that objective is going to be fulfilled.


To encourage the cohesion of the European nations and cultures;
To unite the creative energy of cultural and administrative institutions for joint projects and connections with European partners which is a main requirement for the successful bid for the “European Capital of Culture” title;
To help for the sustainable development of Plovdiv as a contemporary European city;
To promote Plovdiv’s cultural achievements in the country and abroad by engaging the local community and encouraging its participation in common projects;
To prepare Plovdiv’s bid for European Capital of Culture;
To initiate and coordinate the development of a long-term strategy for the cultural policy of the city;
To ensure the integration of culture, business, science and education in accordance with the European Union’s sustainable growth strategy;
To organise together with Plovdiv’s municipality public campaigns in Bulgaria and whose goal is to achieve effective exchange of good practices for sustainable regional development and tourism; to gain support from European partners, cultural institutions and artists from around the world and to observe Plovdiv and Bulgaria’s values and interests.



Verbs of cohesion

If alone the verbs are taken as used in the programmatic formulation, then it becomes noticeable what they intend to do within specific categorical contexts:

- To encourage - To unite - To help - To promote -To prepare - To initiate and coordinate - To ensure - To organise - to gain support - to observe

All of them reveal something once taken together. They are all conditional, and do not seek to express or to articulate something. Rather they intend to help and to gain in support as to what they wish to do together. Rather than being the prerequisite as was the case with Linz when ECoC in 2009, for this was preceeded by the city drafting and agreeing upon a most comprehensive Cultural Development Plan in 2000, to help it qualify for the candidacy when bidding for the ECoC title. In the case of Plovdiv this is no longer the prerequisite, but a wished for outcome of being ECoC.  

To seek a long-term strategy, that equals a declaration by the city no cultural policy exists as such until now. Here critics can begin to wonder why Plovdiv did get the designation of the ECoC title for 2019. Usually it is the understanding within the European framework of evaluation, that a city seeking the title has qualified itself by having in place a) a long term development plan and b) a cultural policy, in order to be able to show what shall be improved upon if it gets the designation of the title.

This remark is made for an obvious reason. While a network like Rencontres works together with local and regional authorities, in order to help them refine cultural policy, there can be observed a trend towards cities discarding cultural policy. For instance, Athens has no longer a vice mayor in charge of culture after the most recent Municipal elections held in 2014. One plausible explanation is that the city has no money, hence it must shut down even its cultural services. The decisive power lies with the region and the central government even though once again the Ministry of Culture is quick to declare of having no money as the case in Greece. 

One wonders, therefore, where the term 'cohesion' is really touched upon by what a city does undertake. Presumably it would have to be in terms of spotting and identifying structural reasons for inequalities prevailing in Europe, and responding to them with adequate cultural tools. It would mean furthermore to address as European Capital of Culture the issue of inequality from a cultural point of view. Naturally if lessons are to be drawn from Pilsen 2015, this has to be done in a way that the terms used can be understood by both local people living in Plovdiv and Bulgaria and if the objective of cohesion is to be taken seriously, then in the rest of Europe. It remains to be seen how Plovdiv 2019 can be achieved.

To remind the EU took a big risk to allow both Bulgaria and Rumania to enter the EU since both countries were known to have a high rate of corruption. It was a sort of 50/50 chance that further developments could go either way. By taking the risk, it was sought to be able to overcome this once EU institutions and values would be applied in a consistent way. However, not anticipated was the virtual take over of land with many buyers from the West swarming through Bulgaria to buy up land and property very cheaply. Also the lack of funds in the country led to a wave of privatization so that in the end people with a really low income have to face ever higher prizes for electricity and other energy supplies. It makes the prospects for attaining any kind of sustainable development highly precarious, to say the least.

So the soft spoken approach taken by Plovdiv says a lot by leaving many problems unnamed. It is to be doubted that the European Capital of Culture in 2019 shall have developed by 2019 the strength and conviction these problems affecting the cultural life in Bulgaria and Europe have to be addressed in much clearer terms before they can be resolved. Naming issues is naturally not enough. There have to be created environments which are conduicive to bringing together the right people in order to take things truly forward.

Each culture has a unique understanding of the real problems left unresolved as long as there are no solutions in sight (Marx), but in the case of Bulgaria the subcultures cast a long shadow over daily life while the official culture is like in Hungary or Rumania still stuck in ideas of a class society in which culture is meant to advance over and beyond the normal citizen. It is a highly traditional form leaving the popular culture especially of the youth to take to the streets and night bars based on smashing anything else counts but having lots of money.

What seems to be amiss in this list of objectives is a vision on how to create a liaison with European values to be embedded at the same time in the local culture, so as to be supportive of the democratic process. Franco Bianchini understands this as the extra value of artists who can counter over simplistic visions and populist solutions by bringing about much more differentiated viewpoints and ways of perceiving things. There is afoot a lot of 'hidden irrationalities' seeking to unify everything even when in reality the differences remain autark und unchanged. Thus the question about the capacity to deliver a year long programme has to be linked to being capable of formulating not only a vision, but to show how and to be able to give it an ethical foundation. A solution shall be found once the value issue itself can be addressed, and this in many and varied cultural ways, in order to become true to the aspiration people have so as to be atuned to the call of life itself. The call comes first of all in the form of people's voices which differ once they learn not only to speak up, but to reflect as an audience what they experience after having just seen an outstanding play or listened to a concert. This audience building as stressed by Bob Palmer should not be neglected nor forgotten.

Hatto Fischer 19.11.2014




ISSUU - Plovdiv 2019 Bid Book – Pre-Selection Phase by ...
Oct 17, 2013 - This is the application form for Plovdiv's European Capital of Culture 2019 bid.

Plovdiv 2019 • Plovdiv's Bid Book
Plovdiv's Bid Book. ... About. Plovdiv – Candidate for European Capital of Culture in 2019. Connect

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