Before COVID-19, the European Capital of Culture (ECoC) title has been the driving force of increase tourism, both in the title year and the years that follow. This has been an important legacy for the hospitality sectors of past ECoC – until last year, when the travel restrictions come in place.
As their ECoC programme is coming to an end, what are the legacy of Rijeka 2020?
And what are the lessons they would like to share with ECoC successors, esp. in the context of the Pandemic?

The legacy of Rijeka 2020 European Capital of Culture

Mrs. Irena Kregar Šegota, head of Rijeka Agency 2020 – responsible for the implementation of ECoC activities, in a recent interview stated:

The parameters of success are always related to the circumstances and to the efforts in which you give or do not give the maximum of yourself. In the case of the ECoC, after several years of intensive planning and preparation and ambitious goals, this year the project found itself in unimaginable circumstances in which the achievement of these goals was not possible. But a huge effort has been made to overcome these circumstances and I believe that we have finally succeeded.
In the summer alone, in cooperation with our many partners - cultural institutions, independent art organizations and other organizations and individuals, we held 390 cultural and artistic programs, which were visited by a total of just over 53 thousand visitors. I think that in these ‘pandemic non-times’ it is an extraordinary achievement that we can all be proud of together.

Although the latest tendency in the development of the ECoC programme indicates a shift away from infrastructural developments, Rijeka dedicated the larger part of their budget to upgrading their physical structures supporting cultural and creative activities. The new cultural infrastructures, renovated from historical buildings under the ECoC programme, will be a solid asset for the region in the years after 2020. Some of the most prominent buildings are the Children’s House, the City Museum, the City Library, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art – all located in the Art quarter Benčić , and the ship Galeb.

From left to right: Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Children’s House, City Library (under construction), City Museum. Photo credit: Rijeka 2020.

Although festivals, concerts and major cultural gatherings were cancelled, the skills to organise such events will be a legacy to the citizen of Rijeka after ECoC thanks to the Classroom education programme – flagship of Rijeka 2020. The Classroom flagship organised capacity-building programmes to equip interested locals with cultural event organisation skills.

Furthermore, new study programmes will be offered by the University of Rijeka. An example is DeltaLab – Centre for Urban Transition, Architecture and Urban Planning. These programmes, made possible by Rijeka 2020, are expected to be pivotal to the future of culture in Rijeka.

Read more: Project legacy

Lessons from the Pandemic

Mr. Vojko Obersnel, the major of Rijeka, at the 142nd plenary meeting of the European Committee of the Regions revealed several important moments for creation of the future policies in terms of the Cultural and Creative Industry (CCI). First, the digital sphere proved to be important in the creation and reception of cultural content. Second, revised cultural policies are needed, the ones that will take into account the needs of the cultural sector but also the possibilities of connecting culture with other sectors. The lessons learned from the ECoC's experience could certainly contribute to a dialogue on new cultural policies, which cannot be carried out without a general framework at EU level, with financial mechanisms focused specifically and precisely on cultural and artistic areas.

At a time when the priority of all countries is the survival and recovery of economies, it is difficult to expect that national governments will give priority to culture and give EU funds for the recovery of culture. Especially if we consider that, in addition to economic growth, support for public health is a major goal in the fight against the COVID pandemic in all countries.
(…) Despite the fact that the pandemic was a major constraint, in a way it forced us to become creative in terms of new ways of perceiving culture, space and audience. In fact, the tangible infrastructural heritage of the project has become, along with the programs held, one of the unavoidable goals that is being achieved.
See the original text (in Croatian): Gradonačelnik Obersnel na sjednici Odbora regija sudjelovao u raspravi o oporavku kreativnih i kulturnih sektora pogođenih pandemijom


Rijeka 2020 programme was extended to April 2021 due to COVID-19. What are the final activities they have under their ECoC title? Find out more in our last news.

Photo credit: Rijeka 2020