CULTURE

Cultural Capital 2006 plans to be reassessed and revised

Instead of plowing ahead at full speed and making up for the delays caused by former Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos’s past policies, some of the most important events organized for Patras Cultural Capital of Europe 2006 are now at risk of being cut from the program altogether. This likelihood (if not fact) arose from an announcement by the Ministry of Culture following a meeting between Deputy Minister Petros Tatoulis and representatives of the Patras organization, and sent shockwaves through the community of the Peloponnesian city, which was hoping that the events would help boost the local economy and push forth much-needed infrastructure works. Indeed, in his election campaign, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis assured the people of Patras of this. Comments in the Patras press and the myriad radio shows on the issue reflect the community’s dismay, while representatives of the Municipality of Patras and Patras 2006 stated that they «would not accept even one euro less» than the amount promised by the State (ministries of culture and finance), even though Venizelos did not approve the disbursement of any funds. «Already the amount we have requested is insufficient, especially in comparison to Thessaloniki, which was the Cultural Capital in 1997 and which received four times the amount we need,» said one statement. The entire issue came to a head following an announcement by the Ministry of Culture after a meeting between Tatoulis and representatives of the Patras Municipality and Patras 2006 (among them artistic director Thanos Mikroutsikos), which states that the deputy minister «asked for an overall reassessment of the matter and a revised plan that will realistically reflect the new facets that have arisen in the process.» Exactly what this means or what the parties agreed to is not clear, but what is certain, according to their emphatic statements, is definitely not a cutback in the 108 million euros they requested in funds. However, Tatoulis is scheduled to meet with the representatives again within the next few days, as soon as they «have a revised plan.» The deputy minister, according to sources, made reference to the fact that 2006 is not very far off and questioned just how many projects could be completed by then. In response, the Patras representatives noted that what could be completed in time was one thing, but that what needed to be done in any case to boost the local economy through cultural tourism was quite another. Tatoulis responded that it would be impossible for the entire amount to be drawn from the state coffers in such a short period of time, since, up to now and because of Venizelos, not a single euro has been put toward the project. Mikroutsikos at this point in the meeting suggested that the funds be doled out gradually, beginning now and continuing over the next four years, and put to use on specific projects depending on their usefulness and state of completion. Tatoulis recognized the benefits of this proposal, but was reluctant to give his definitive approval in anticipation of the «revised plan,» to which the Patras representatives reluctantly agreed. Venizelos, on his part, announced on Tuesday that 110 million euros have already been approved under the state budget and therefore that what the Patras Municipality and the current Culture and Finance ministries ought to be doing is «ensuring the smooth disbursement of the funds and execution of the works.»