Valletta, European Capital of Culture 2018 has been awarded the Melina Mercouri prize of €1.5 million in view of its strong European dimension and citizens’ involvement, particularly through the education and capacity building programmes.

Valletta 2018 Foundation Chairman Jason Micallef said, “The award of the Melina Mercouri prize shows that the European Commission recognises our efforts in developing a strong programme whilst also transforming previously forgotten spaces into creative hubs. The participation of Maltese and Gozitans in Valletta 2018, along with the infrastructure projects taking place in Valletta, will ensure a lasting legacy beyond 2018.”

The Melina Mercouri prize was awarded to Valletta 2018 as a successful ECoC, following the second monitoring meeting in Brussels on the 7th March between Valletta 2018 and the Monitoring and Advisory Panel of the European Commission. The first meeting was held in September 2015. According to the panel’s report, the Valletta 2018 Cultural Programme has a very strong European dimension, with more than 250 artists from abroad including Egypt, Israel and European countries actively contributing to it. The programme’s focus on the Mediterranean and on all those countries which share its shores, has also been strengthened.

Efforts made by the Foundation’s staff and policy makers over the last four years to bring the project forward were also commended by the panel. The Foundation’s legacy is currently being discussed, with the idea to create a Valletta Cultural Agency that would recruit part of the staff currently working for the ECoC to take forward the cultural programme beyond 2018. The panel meanwhile recommended that Valletta 2018 brings forward the legacy discussions, using quantitative and qualitative facts and data where possible to strengthen the importance of making the effort of the ECoC sustainable. It also urged for the development of business plans for the flagship venues that will constitute the legacy of Valletta 2018, as well as for the Valletta Cultural Agency.

Addressing the media, the  Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen  Bonnici congratulated Valletta 2018 and all those who contributed towards achieving this award from the European Commission. “The European Capital of Culture is among the most high profile events in Europe,” the Minister said, stating that the cultural programme tied to the title has to have a local dimension as well as a European dimension, and above all must be one that involves the public.

The title of European Capital of Culture also has an economic and social impact, which in itself is also part of the national legacy that the Government has created as part of Valletta 2018, thanks to inclusive and collaborative work as well as investment which is changing the arts and culture sectors today, as well as for future generations. “This is happening not only in Valletta but – as we have always maintained – this is an impact which is today felt across Malta and Gozo,” Dr Bonnici said.  The Shadow Minister for Culture Karl Gouder said: “It is important that we do not only have a strong year in 2018 but that the legacy created following this year is felt well into the future to benefit all”.