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EcocDay special, Barbara Gessler: “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future with the Ecoc”

By Advertorial Mercoledì, 03 Novembre 2021
Expo Dubai 2020 Expo Dubai 2020 Photo by EcocNews

“It is my distinct pleasure to address you all today on this unique and innovative European Capitals of Culture Day at the Universal Exposition in Dubai”. This is the message proclaimed by Barbara Gessler, Head of the "Creative Europe and ECoC programme" Unit - European Commission. The occasion was the International Forum, the opening event of the European Capitals of Culture Day, organized by the Foundation in partnership with the Commissioner General of Italy and under the patronage of the European Commission. 

Below is the entire speech by Barbara Gessler.

“Under the pressure of COVID19, the past two years have been extremely challenging for the cultural and creative sectors, with massive closure of cultural centres and cancellations of so many cultural events.

Navigating the pandemic disruptions resulted similarly extremely challenging for one of the most widely known EU flagship actions, namely the European Capital of Culture, and its two 2020 title-holders, Rijeka in Croatia and Galway in Ireland.

Against this background, the Dubai 2020-21 Universal Exhibition, the leading worldwide event of the year, is bringing hope and light, enabling participants from all over the world to reconnect with each of the showcased cultures.

Building up this positive momentum, it offers a venue for ideas sharing and raising awareness about the global issues that mankind faces. Its far-reaching theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” perfectly embodies the Commission’s values and actions on culture.

I could not thereupon miss this chance to say a word on the multifaceted benefit and added value of the European Capitals of Culture in the scope of the Expo’s thematic week on as part of the theme week on “Urban & Rural Development”.

Since 1985, the European Capitals of Culture have established their massive force evidencing the power of culture as a source for local and regional development and community engagement.

The pandemic only confirmed their resilience and relevance in our societies and the role culture has in enabling idea circulation and innovative artistic expressions, bringing us together across the EU and beyond.

For the past two years, the European Capitals of Culture have not only been extremely creative in finding innovate ways to interact with their audiences, knitting communities and individuals together in difficult times.

They equally recomposed and attuned their demands and the formats of their events to equip project leaders with the adequate toolbox and methods.

Despite the challenges, they have maintained cultural activities as much as possible, showing extraordinary foresight and inventiveness to reach out to people.

I want to congratulate the team of the Matera-Basilicata 2019 Foundation for their fascinating work on the occasion of the European Capitals of Culture Day. Throughout the day, participants will experience through several talks, workshops and performances, the aims and intentions of a European Capital of Culture, for urban and rural development, audience engagement and social cohesion.

I am delighted that the actions of the European Capitals of Culture received this opportunity to be displayed among the world leading innovation, and demonstrate their contribution to “building the bridges, leaving no one behind and living in balance”, in the words of the Expo Dubai 2020-21.

We are committed at the European Union to work to change societies for the better. Hence forth, we firmly believe culture and cities can contribute to urban regeneration, sustainable development, quality of life, well-being and social inclusion.

To this end, European Capitals of Culture displays a privilege leading platform for creation, experiences sharing. It additionally operates as a living laboratory for social innovation and a pool of best practices in regenerating cities, embracing civic activation and co-creation connecting communities at local, national and European levels.

As the perfect embodiment of the power of culture to change our daily lives for the better, European Capitals of Culture are intrinsically intertwining to one of our most exciting EU initiatives: the New European Bauhaus, announced by the Commission’s President Ursula Von der Leyen in 2020.

The New European Bauhaus intends to translate the European Green Pact into a tangible reality for European citizens by making their living spaces and lifestyle more sustainable. The aim is to trigger a new momentum to redesign the environments we live in and the way we inhabit them.

As a “bridge between science and technology, on the one hand, and the world of art and culture on the other”, the New European Bauhaus will undoubtedly transform our cities and urban areas around the values highlighted by the Expo Dubai 2020-21: sustainability, mobility and opportunity.

This is also an ambition that the European Capitals of Culture have been pursuing already for quite a few years.

Despite the current challenges, I am delighted to witness the vitality and aspiration of the cultural and creative sectors reunited for the Dubai Exhibition and the willingness of our host to bring to the fore EU flagship initiatives. Culture has a role to play in designing a vision for our common future, not only as a thriving sector but also a vector of further inclusion, innovations and trust. In this respect, the new Creative Europe programme, with its strongly increased budget at 2,4 billion EUR over the period 2021-2027, will be a powerful tool to increase cooperation and accelerate the learning curve within the cultural and creative sectors across Europe.

I hope these values will empower all of you throughout the length of the Expo Dubai 2020-21. The European Capital of Culture day is of great significance as it follows an exceptional gap of eight months in the ECOC programming. Indeed, if the two ECOC2020 handed over their title in April 2021, the European Union - upon the request of the cities concerned - agreed on postponing the three European Capitals of Culture initially planned for 2021.

This day henceforth resonates as a common thread connecting Rijeka, Galway’s closing ceremonies with Esch, Kaunas and Novi Sad’s forthcoming openings.

In this respect we are extremely looking forward to the rich and ambitious cultural programming of the three ECOC 2022, which was released on a joint press conference on 22 September 2021.

Congratulations to all of you, have a wonderful European Capital of Culture day in beautiful Dubai”.