TALLINN - Tallinn's progress to becoming the European Cultural Capital in 2011 has hit a bump, with the head of the selection panel criticizing the city for its lack of preparation.
Sir Robert Scott said he had concerns about Tallinn's Cultural Capital budget, and said the program lacked input from the city's minority 's meaning Russian 's community.
Sir Robert, who chairs the Selection Panel for the European Capitals of Culture, made the comments to Estonia's members of the European Parliament during a meeting of the EP cultural committee on Aug. 27.
He told MEP Marianne Mikko that there were budgetary concerns because none of 400 million euros pledged by the government had been guaranteed in writing.
Further, he expressed concerns about the content of Tallinn's program, which was "unclear in its European dimension," lacked involvement from "new Estonians," and did not show any new examples of culture.
Mikko told The Baltic Times she had her own concerns about the program, which focused entirely on Tallinn's medieval history, rather than showcasing the city's forward thinking.
"Europe is looking for fresh ideas, for breakthrough culture, audacity and boldness. Estonia should present itself as a country of the future as much as possible. This is hard if we spend vast amounts of money making ourselves look more medieval," Mikko said.
"We need a lot of cutting-edge culture to balance our historical heritage. All cars have rear-view mirrors but the driver should still mostly be looking ahead."
At the same cultural committee meeting, the Finnish city of Turku 's which will jointly share the title of Cultural Capital with Tallinn in 2011 's was praised for its preparations. "Turku is very good. If we are not very good or even better, we will be marginalized," Mikko said.
Despite the criticism, there was no danger that Tallinn could be stripped of the title, she said. "Tallinn has been approved, now it must be improved."
The office in charge of administering the Cultural Capital program said the comments should be taken as constructive criticism.
Lennart Sundja, senior officer at the Tallinn Cultural Heritage Department, said the committee meeting was not a "beauty contest" between Tallinn and Turku, but was of a "working nature."
"The main concern with Tallinn was how the city will secure the funds designated for the Capital of Culture project," Sundja said
"What they want from Tallinn is to produce evidence that the budget is granted for the project until 2012 and will not be reduced over the years of preparationâ€¦ We are currently working on this issue and we are planning to deliver the necessary documents to the selection panel by the end of October."
Sundja said the criticism about the nature of the program should be considered as "guidelines for developing a successful program."
"Of course, we take the suggestions made by the prominent panel very seriously. None of the critical remarks were something we could not deal with. I believe Estonian culture and Tallinn's cultural life is rich in potential and Tallinn will offer in 2011 an interesting and original cultural program for the whole Europe," Sundja said.