San Sebastian 2016 ends its year as the Capital of Culture after completing the project it committed to with Europe

San Sebastian 2016 ends its year as the Capital of Culture after completing the project it committed to with Europe

San Sebastian 2016 ends its year as the Capital of Culture after completing the cultural project that it undertook to develop before the European authorities five years ago, when it was chosen to bear the title of the European Capital of Culture.

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Karel Bartak, director of Creative Europe, the EU programme created to promote the continent’s cultural and creative sectors, praised the achievements of the project, the assessment of which will be made public by the Foundation in spring, during the official event to pass the baton to the new capitals, Aarhus and Paphos.

The “Culture for living together” project was conceived not only to promote a culture of coexistence in San Sebastian and its surrounding region, but also to be a reference for Europe. Tens of thousands of people have participated in this collective project in many ways. From the simple role of spectators of screenings or concerts, to a deeper involvement in a wide variety of ways: proposing and carrying out or choosing cultural projects, taking part in training in fields such as inclusion or cultural management, developing associations and business projects, or being part of the culture of coexistence.

This last field has been one of the project’s cornerstones. The Capital of Culture’s promotion of coexistence has been a driving force for Basque society, with initiatives such as Sin adiós, which has already become a reference. In addition to being a project that has made visible the disagreements in society concerning the reconciliation of sensitivities, San Sebastian 2016 has kept in view Basque society’s wish for a better and deeper coexistence in the public agenda during the last five years.

Despite the difficulties caused by several events, among which a profound economic crisis that reduced its expected budget by half, San Sebastian 2016 has completed the project chosen in 2011 by the European authorities thanks to the enthusiastic involvement of associations, cultural agents, private companies and citizens of San Sebastian and the surrounding region.


The Capital of Culture has been an amazing catalyst between local cultural institutions and their regional state-level and European peers. Thanks to projects such as Peace Treaty or Emusik, collaboration networks and links for the future have been created with entities of all types, sizes and nature, which range from the Louvre Museum or the Prado Museum to humble provincial music schools in Poland or Lithuania.

This integration of the city in international networks has been even deeper in the case of nearby regions, especially with the institutions and cultural agents of the French Basque Country and the new French region of Nouvelle Aquitaine. Institutions such as the Conseil des Pyrénées Atlantiques and others such as the city councils of Bayonne or Biarritz have collaborated very intensely with the Capital of Culture in cross-border projects like Itsasfest, Mugalariak and the Fête de la Corniche and in exhibitions such as Indarra and Itsas begia, or several case studies of Peace Treaty.

The paradigm of the integration of San Sebastian in European networks is the inclusion in the group of cities that have been European Capitals of Culture, among which we have the 'sister capital' in Poland, Wroclaw, but also a long list of cities under the umbrella of the European Commission, which has already shown interest in the innovations by San Sebastian.

The importance that San Sebastian as the Capital of Culture has attached to the European dimension is proven by the significant investment and far-reaching results achieved by the three itinerant embassies of San Sebastian 2016. In fact, some of their materials, such as the Europa Transit documentaries, are being launched in international film festivals from the USA to Polynesia.

Although it was not a primary goal of the Capital of Culture project, San Sebastian 2016 has also been successful in terms of promoting the city, which has been accompanied by a very significant investment in the creative fabric of the region and an adequate adaptation of the big challenges that the city will face in the future.

San Sebastian, a reference in the field of language

Special mention should be made of the promotion that the Capital of Culture has made of the Basque language, Basque culture and language diversity in Europe. By hosting the European Language Diversity Forum and the presentation the day before yesterday of the Protocol for Guaranteeing Language Rights, San Sebastian takes the baton from Barcelona as a European reference in a field that is consubstantial to community identity.

Significant presence in the media

Several media outlets, from municipal to global media, have covered the contents of San Sebastian 2016 on a daily basis, with an economic valuation of more than €41 million only at a local and state level, according to the independent Kantar Media agency.

Moreover, internationally renowned media such as Le Monde, The Daily Telegraph, Deutsche Welle or R.A.I. have published articles on San Sebastian throughout the year. The New York Times has published articles on San Sebastian and the Capital of Culture on several occasions too, including a feature on Peace Treaty, one of the most ambitious projects of the cultural programme.

Social and economic promotion

The social and economic promotion carried out by the Capital of Culture has consolidated, likewise, the production, curating, distribution and exhibition of Basque culture, with projects specifically designed for the promotion of talent, in addition to operating as a complete product. Examples of this promotion are the film Kalebegiak or the entire series of projects in Berriak, such as Komisario berriak, Antzerkigintza berriak, Itzultzaile berriak or Ikusmira berriak.



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