German cities who are bidding for the European Capital of Culture (ECOC) title have written an angry letter to Brussels bureaucrats slamming the decision to bar UK cities - including Leeds - from hosting the 2023 competition post Brexit.
In an open letter to the European Commission, which runs the prestigious competition, cities including Dresden and Kassel - who are themselves bidding to host the title in 2025 - expressed their “irritation” at last week’s announcement that the Commission would no longer support applications from UK cities following Britain’s exit from the European Union.
The letter, also signed by civic leaders in Hildenheim, Hannover and Zittau, added: “Both the title and the process of bidding for ECOC are an effective tool to strengthen ties between people in cities and regions in Europe at a time when we are faced with growing Euroscepticism in our country and in many countries all over Europe.
“Cultural ties and the ECOC can also be a tool to create new impulses for a Europe of the citizens in the future.
“This is our hope connected to the bids for ECOC in Germany in 2025.
“If it is true what Jean Monnet (French political economist who supported European unity) said, that could we start European integration all over again, we should start with culture, we should not now begin European disintegration with cutting cultural ties.
“With this decision you are sending a message that will be heard not only in Great Britain, but all over Europe. It will be a setback for all of us who are willing to work hard towards a diverse and lively European continent and EU.”
Meanwhile the chair of the Leeds 2023 steering group, Sharon Watson, insisted today that the work already done in developing the Yorkshire city’s bid had been “enormously valuable” and had “created new connections that will continue to flourish”.
She said that following last week’s “shock announcement”, the Leeds 2023 bid team had received hundreds of messages of support from across the city and the continent.
“These messages are testament to the energy, momentum and collaboration created throughout this process,” she said.
“We cannot stop the conversation or pack up and return to how things were.”
She added that bid and city leaders had been “strongly advocating” for the European Commission to change its mind, and would “make sure that the vital work started through our bidding process is neither lost or forgotten”.
Talks have been continuing over the past week between the UK’s bidding cities and the Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport about if and how the UK’s hosting in 2023 can be saved.
“Whatever the outcome of those negotiations, Leeds remains an internationally connected cultural city and will continue to deliver a strong legacy from this process,” Ms Watson said.
The Yorkshire Evening Post reported earlier that Andrew Carter, the leader of Leeds City Council’s main opposition Conservative group, was demanding Brussels pays back the £1m already spent on Leeds’s bid, a combination of public and private sector money.