Council London bound for talks over Euro capital snub

Euro bid.
Euro bid.

Officials from Derry City and Strabane District Council will travel to London this week for discussions with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the European Commission's claim Derry and Belfast - as UK cities - will be ineligible for the European Capital of Culture title in 2023.

The mission follows European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics', indication that Brexit effectively bars Derry and Belfast from running for the Euro capital crown.

Details of a letter the commissioner, a member of the Hungarian right-wing Fidesz party, wrote to Tory DCMS Minister Karen Bradley suggesting Derry should be disqualified, emerged on Thursday.

The DCMS disputes Mr. Navracsics' contention and will discuss this with council officials in London this week.

A spokesperson for the council confirmed: "We are working with the DCMS to explore the options available in the context of the recent announcement by the European Commission.

"Negotiations between DCMS and the European Commission are ongoing and the five bidding cities have been invited to attend a meeting next week in London to receive an update.

"We are actively involved in supporting these ongoing discussions. Once these negotiations have concluded we will proceed with the publication of the details of the bid.

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your invaluable support and enthusiasm that has shaped an outstanding bid.

"This has been an incredible journey and we value the partnerships which have been created through this process.

"We wish to pledge our commitment to build on the strong foundations established and progress further with these relationships."

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said it is possible to rescue the joint bid.

She said: "If the British government make a declaration to the EU that the north can stay in the customs union and single market then the bid could continue.

"We also need to explore options with the Irish government to see if they can take this bid forward under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and the bodies it established.

"I have also written to the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsis, requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the bid.

"All of this shows the absolute necessity to secure special status for the north within the EU."

The SDLP has called for an urgent joint meeting of councillors and officials to address the European Capital of Culture decision.

Colr. Martin Reilly said: “An immense amount of preparatory work has already gone into the joint bid to bring the European Capital of Culture title to Derry and Belfast.

“In an effort to boost both regions and demonstrate positive cooperation across the North, our councils have been working closely on this collaborative bid. It presented a real opportunity economically, politically and culturally.

“It’s critical that both councils now come together to make the case for a special dispensation for this bid. We must remain united."