The Malta Independent 20 August 2019, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Valletta 2018 - Telling it as it is

Tuesday, 12 February 2019, 10:45 Last update: about 7 months ago

At last someone had the guts to say it as it is: Valletta18 was a failure.

Architect John Ebejer, who was involved with the European Capital City of Culture wrote a long article on this paper’s Sunday sister a week ago and argued his point that Valletta18 was taken over and lost sight of the original intentions which backed Valletta’s application as a Capital City of Culture.


To summarise matters, the Valletta18 application was submitted under a PN administration and accepted by the EU monitoring body. But once Labour came to government, all that had been prepared was thrown out of the window. A new supremo, Jason Micallef, not known for his cultural background, was brought in. The two persons who had been identified with the V18 were removed.

Micallef then took the initiative to enter into the public controversy about the shrine commemorating Daphne Caruana Galizia at the Great Siege monument in front of the Law Courts.

As a private citizen he could comment but as President of V18 he tainted the eCoC with partisan politics. As a result Valletta18 was boycotted by its counterpart for 2018, Leewarden, and by the whole eCoC structure. Valletta18 was even boycotted by the Valletta mayor.

This newspaper had also revealed that over 100 local artists had signed a petition to have Micallef removed.

Many spurious claims have been made to portray Valletta18 as a success and to claim, as Minister Owen Bonnici did, that it had regenerated Valletta. This cannot be further away from the truth: it was the PN administration which, starting in 2005, led to the pedestrianisation of Republic and Merchants streets, the restoration of Fort St Elmo, the Fortifications Interactive Centre, and of course City Gate.

There are those who claim that the extra-liberal policies regarding tables and chairs have regenerated the city. While it is true there are now many dining opportunities especially in the evenings, it is very debatable whether this has led to an improvement in the quality of life of the residents.

The Opposition spokesperson Therese Commodini Cachia has often spoken about this Valletta18 fiasco but even her own website does not report the rather tame speech she made in Parliament last week. It is time for the Opposition which brought Valletta18 to Malta to stand firm and defend the PN’s record and to denounce the misinterpretation of the eCoC ideal by an administration blind to everything except its own appointees.

Malta was proud it had been chosen to get a go at the eCoC agenda and could have organised it so as to get adequate returns from it. Instead, we only have MUZA to account for eCoC and even then it opened (if that’s the proper word) very late in the year, after the end of the Valletta18 main celebrations. And it would not have happened unless this paper had stood firm in 2014 when the move from South Street (the Museum of Fine Arts) to the Auberge d’Italie was about to be aborted by the then minister.

It will be quite a number of years before the next eCoC comes our way again. Hopefully, the country will have learned its lesson and hopefully too the shame and indignity of Valletta18 will have worn off.

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