DUP Alderman Drew Thompson has blasted the European Commission’s vindictiveness towards the United Kingdom (UK) after it barred Derry City and Strabane District Council and Belfast City Council from running for the European Capital of Culture title in 2023 on the pretext of Brexit.
In a blistering attack on the EC, the DUP council leader said he was not surprised it had moved the goalposts, suggesting it had form in the area.
Speaking after the EC Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics’, decision to bar the UK from the competition was made public, he said: “They made assurances that they would not act in malice or attempt to punish the UK but here we have an example of the pettiness that we have come to expect from Brussels.
“The Londonderry/Belfast bid was built upon renewing and building on the foundations of the peace process, breaking down barriers and showing communities that, where culture is often contested, that what unites them is greater than what divides. Peace-building in Northern Ireland is something that Europe has often enjoyed associating itself with, claiming credit for, and even using as a bargaining chip in negotiations, yet there is clearly scant consideration given to the benefits this opportunity would have presented in Belfast and Londonderry to consolidate the peace.”
The senior local unionist claimed that in his experience as an applicant to consecutive European Union peace programmes, the commission continually made changes to rules and regulations, hampering local projects in the process.
Ald, Thompson also said it was absurd for Mr. Navracsics, whose native Hungary now looks set to enjoy the first Euro Capital solo run since Patras in Greece was the sole city to wear the crown in 2006, to bar the city on the basis that the UK will by 2023 be a non-EU member. What about the six cities in non-European Union states that have hosted the title since it was initiated in 1985, he asked?
He said the ruling was another example of an unaccountable EC changing the rules to suit itself.
“There have been constant reassurances in Europe that while the UK remains a member and while it continues to contribute, it will continue to be treated no differently to any other member,” he said.
“This is not unusual for Europe. It is no different to a number of other European nations who are not member states and participated in programmes like this one.”