A brief visit to Leeuwarden by Maltese minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici did little to improve relations between the two European Capitals of Culture.
Translation by Traci White
Bonnici was in Leeuwarden on Thursday and spoke to local politicians and journalists in an effort to improve relations between the two Capitals of Culture. But the minister would not budge: he refused to distance himself from Micallef’s comments, even going so far as to defend them as being protected by freedom of speech.
“We need more than that”, Van Bekkum told the Leeuwarder Courant. “I’m not calling for heads to roll, but we are calling for a respectful attitude and appropriate conduct. If nothing changes, then there won’t be in progress in thawing relations.”
Maltese delegates will not be in attendance at the closing ceremony of the LF2018 year, nor will the Leeuwarden-Fryslân director Tjeerd van Bekkum travel to Valletta for the Maltese city for the occasion. No provincial representatives are scheduled to travel to the city for at least the remainder of the year.
The Leeuwarder Courant reports that Bonnici was meant to provide an explanation of the Valletta Capital of Culture organisers’ conduct and comments regarding the assassination of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Valletta2018’s director Jason Micallef has repeatedly made disparaging remarks about the murdered journalist.
Contact between Valletta and Leeuwarden-Fryslân will remain limited to procedural matters. There are three collaborative productions that the two regions are putting on, including performances of Aïda by Opera Spanga in Valletta in September.