European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

In praise of success - real estate prices

Vilnius in Lithuania has been praised as a success stories, but what was done to achieve success, needs still to be analysed and explored.


One indication as to the meaning of success is given by a blog report called nubricks. It is an overseas property blog. Reading one entry, it reflects the kind of small talk on the internet about property values in Europe and abroad (18 March 2009).

"No matter how you look at it, Lithuania is a success story. GDP growth between 2003 and 2007 averaged 8.4% a year and the 3.1% increase in 2008 was among the highest in the EU27. The housing market has also grown considerably and property investment in this Baltic State has provided promising returns. In addition, this year sees a first for a new EU member state – Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, is this year’s European Capital of Culture.

Having emerged from Soviet occupation in 1990, Lithuania, the largest and most populated Baltic State, is now a fully-fledged member of NATO and the EU. Its status as an established member of Europe is confirmed by Vilnius as European Capital of Culture. The capital’s old quarter, a treasure trove of Baroque architecture, is widely acclaimed as the greenest and most elegant of the three Baltic capitals. Not for nothing is Vilnius a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As European Capital of Culture, Vilnius offers an impressive calendar of events –experimental theatre, opera, multimedia events, classical music concerts, ballet and films – which promise to attract numerous tourists to this Baltic capital. Highlights in the year’s many events include the Opera Festival, ‘Let There be Night’ on Midsummer’s Eve and European Jazz.

In common with many other EU countries, Lithuania’s outlook for 2009 is not quite so bright. Eurostat forecasts 0% GDP growth for this year, although this is considerably better than many of the EU’s larger and more developed states, and only fractionally below the growth forecast for the EU27 as a whole (0.2%). The prediction keeps Lithuania in the enviable position of being outside the recession zone.

Property prices have also seen a dip – the Knight Frank Global House Price Index for Q4 2008 reported a year-on-year fall of 1% on the previous quarter (again, significantly below the drop seen in other countries). However, a downturn in the property market often signifies opportunities for investment. “The fact that Vilnius will constantly be in the cultural spotlight this year will undoubtedly boost tourism and enhance the capital’s status as a popular weekend-break destination,” says James Gonzalez, Market Analyst at Obelisk Investment Property. “This year could well be the one when it’s worth looking into the Lithuanian market with opportunistic buying in mind.”


Practically it states that the years of preparation along with the higher attention given to the city provided a suitable framework for investment opportunities. It does not say if culture was used in a way to ensure only such investments which take culture into consideration, or if instead culture is taken as a kind of attraction.

Significant are other factors mentioned which seem to have contributed to the creation of stable framework conditions in which investment flows can signify such a success claim. They include freeing of Lithuania from the Soviet Union empire in 1990 and the country now a member of NATO and of the European Union. Consequently the Eurpean Capital of Culture year  can be linked to an all out effort to regain national identity and therefore independence from former influences linked especially to Russia and what had predominated in Eastern Europe ever since 1945 but also before.

While such a success story is favourable looked at by the European Commission, it says very little or nothing at all as of yet what was achieved in terms of cultural development. Here literacy but also cultural diversity play an enormous role insofar as minority and majority cultural rights play a huge role in how cultural institutions end up contributing or not to a sense of cultural governance in accordance with EU and Western values of democracy. 

There can be other points not yet touched upon and which are in need of consideration when considering how the one year went for Vilnius, culturally speaking. One of these points can be whether or not the notion of law was touched upon and this out of a cultural perspective, insofar as even poetry can articulate ideas and feelings about how to constitute oneself not only within Lithuania but within the wider European context. The moment the European dimension becomes a required criterion for ECoC cities to fulfil, it matters to make an evaluation as well along these lines of thoughts. Basically it is about what cultural perspectives were opened up due to preparing for this one year and what has developed further after 2009?



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