[WATCH] European Commission registers Valletta 2018 progress

Following a somewhat damning report last September, the Valletta 2018 Foundation has received a kinder follow-up report from the European Commission's monitoring panel, which highlighted the Foundation's improvement in staffing, event planning and organisation

Valletta 2018 Foundation Chairman Jason Micallef (left) and its Executive Director Karsten Xuereb • Photo by Raphael Farrugia
Valletta 2018 Foundation Chairman Jason Micallef (left) and its Executive Director Karsten Xuereb • Photo by Raphael Farrugia

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Following a somewhat damning report in September 2015 – in which the Valletta 2018 Foundation was described as ‘lagging behind’ on its targets – the European Commission has noted substantial progress in the Foundation’s work since, and a follow-up report emerging from a meeting which took place over January 25 and 27 paints a far more optimistic portrait of the way forward for the Foundation.

This emerged during a press conference announcing the report to the public, and addressed by Valletta 2018 Chairman Jason Micallef and the Foundation’s Executive Director Karsten Xuereb.

Emphasising that Valletta 2018 is a “foundation, and not a cultural agency” and that its remit is not to come up with events wholesale but to facilitate “the economic, social and cultural regeneration of Valletta,” Micallef lamented that the media picked out only the ‘negative’ aspects of the previous European Commission report, while reminding all present that Valletta’s efforts towards becoming Capital for Culture are a constant work in progress.

The latest report was drafted following the visit by two members of the Monitoring and Advisory Panel of the European Commission, Ulrich Fuchs and Sylvia Amann, who visited Valletta in January 25-27 of this year to monitor its progress towards becoming European Capital for Culture in 2018. Commenting positively on its infrastructural projects – such as the Valletta Design Cluster, MUZA and others – while also welcoming the recruitment of an International Artistic Advisor, the panel however recommended that the Foundation’s budgetary set-up, the pacing of its own projects vis-à-vis those done in collaboration with other entities, as well as its communication and outreach, be improved.

The panel said that “the reporting on the budgetary issues is still unclear and raises questions about the amount managed directly by the Foundation, the budget devoted to the ECOC project and the split of responsibilities budget-wise,” recommending that the next report should clearly separate the budget given to other structures and to which projects it will be devoted, and the budget that will be disbursed by the Foundation.

On management and staffing, the panel suggested there be a “clean split” between the Foundation’s own projects, co-produced projects and labeled projects, “to avoid overloading of staff and increase the involvement of local institutions”.

The panel also suggested that the offices where the Foundation is currently housed – the Chamber of Commerce in Republic Street, Valletta – is not very visible and accessible from the outside, which doesn’t help the Foundation’s efforts and communicating its message and facilitating its outreach – especially given that the involvement of the local residents remained something of a question mark, according to the panel.

To this end, Micallef stated that the Foundation will act on this recommendation as soon as possible, eventually converting the nearby offices – formerly used by the GRTU – and moving into them, ensuring that Valletta 2018’s working space will be visible and accessible from St George’s Square.

Micallef said that the Foundation accepted the panel’s feedback without reservation – that it was heartened by its positive comments and that its criticism was constructive and that it could be implemented in the given time-frame.

Xuereb described the results of this report as emerging from a “consolidation” effort, in which the former report’s recommendations were taken on board and implemented as part of the foundation’s day-to-day efforts.

Meanwhile, Micallef stressed the importance of an upcoming flagship event for Valletta 2018 – Pageant of the Seas, headed by Mario Philip Azzopardi and slated for June 7 – will be an “unprecedented” project for Malta, and because of this presents a unique challenge.

“Because of this, I urge you all to support this project with everything you’ve got,” Micallef said.

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