Hungary's Pecs nominated for Cultural Capital of Europe

Hungary has nominated the town of Pecs for the title of Cultural Capital of Europe in 2010. Pecs was chosen over six other cities, including the capital Budapest. The international jury said the bid aims to develop the city's cultural wealth and focuses on its regional role. Istvan Tarrosy is the man heading the Pecs bid. He told Radio Budapest why this bid won favour with the jury.

"I think there were a couple of things, among which were our European messages that played an important role as well as the new cultural cooperation and city planning based on cultural values and culture as such. I think Pecs is really set on reforming itself and its region on the basis of culture - cultural values and heritage, as well as artistic innovation."

The title of your application is "Borderless City". What does it mean?

"Well, we have been - and would like to continue - cooperating with a number of settlements. In our application we have around fifty of them at present that are not just inside Hungary but across the borders too and we established the idea of a southern cultural zone in which we have partners ranging from northern Italian cities like Trieste to Timisoara in Romania and Kutaya in Turkey. So, we think that culture - in the cultural heritage and the value system sense - has regions but overarches borders. Pecs, with its tradition of different minorities living together in peace and harmony, transcends borders and we would like to play a central role in this southern cultural role in mediating further the development of projects overarching borders as well as in our global world. Borders are disappearing and you need to transcend them in a very modern way."

You mentioned you had European messages. What are they?

"The first and most important is that Pecs has been playing an active role on a very interesting borderline of Europe, which has been here ever since the foundation of the Roman town Sopianae. It was an important area where Pecs served as a trading junction, and as an important centre of commerce, culture and education. So ever since those times, Pecs has been accumulating experience and knowledge along this borderline and we would like to show this borderline to Europe with all its interesting experiences and cultural heritage. This is a very multi-coloured European border region with different religions and different ethnic groups living together.

"The other thing that is connected to this is that Pecs is a cultural gateway to the Balkans. In this southern cultural zone, we could open the door more towards Croatia and Serbia Montenegro and the western Balkans. Thirdly, Pecs would like to show another type of accumulated knowledge from the last 45-50 years, which is the cultural heritage of East European socialism."

Today is a day of celebration but you face a huge task. How are you going to prepare for it?

"Everything starts now. We need to develop the infrastructure and enhance networking with partners, which will take a lot of time. But all these years we will prepare; 2006 is the year of cultural heritage, 2007 is the year of education and training, 2008 is the year of environmental culture and health care, and 2009 is the year of religious culture celebrating the 1000th anniversary of the bishopric in Pecs. So, these are themed years and we would like to work along the themes to be able to receive Europe in 2010."