The European Capital of Culture project (EPK) has brought the cities involved, region and the country a lot of good, Suzana Žilič Fišer, the head of Maribor 2012, the institute in charge of the project, believes. She thinks it has also contributed to people's "awakening from apathy" and encouraged them to speak up.
Director of ECOC 2012: "International recognisability of Maribor and the parter cities has significantly increased because of the EPK. Maribor has become one of the top ten destinations in 2012, tourist numbers exceeded expectations"
As some are drawing parallels between the EPK and anti-establishment protests that were born in Maribor, Žilič Fišer says in an interview with the STA that after 2012, the year in which Maribor holds the title of European Capital of Culture, the city will never be the same.
"If this project encouraged citizens to become more self-aware, if it encouraged democratisation of opinions and a public dialogue...our goal has been achieved."
As part of the EPK both traditional as well as on-line projects enabled people to express their opinions, positions on various issues, according to her.
Having people expressing their opinion was very much needed in Slovenia, where apathy became increasingly wide spread, especially among the young people.
Žilič Fišer believes the biggest lasting achievement of the project is the mental shift that has happened because Maribor and its partner cities to the project (Murska Sobota, Novo mesto, Ptuj, Slovenj Gradec and Velenje) were put in the centre of attention of international community.
Subsequently, all those who work in these cities have been given an opportunity to be seen in the wider, European region, she says.
"This is why I think coproductions and projects of cooperation with international institutions are so important. I hope this cooperation will continue in the future as well and this is definitely an added value of the EPK."
Žilič Fišer also cherishes the cooperation between culture and science through the University in Maribor as "extremely important for the creativity of the city".
Another positive feature has been volunteering, which the EPK has been encouraging and which Žilič Fišer thinks should be nurtured in the future. "More than 7,000 hours of volunteer work done by different generations certainly indicate a huge shift in the mentality of the people."
The EPK also brought economic effects, including by attracting more tourists. "International recognisability of Maribor and the parter cities has significantly increased because of the EPK. Maribor has become one of the top ten destinations in 2012, tourist numbers exceeded expectations."
"Whether or not this trend will continue, depends on the city leadership and the hospitality sector," the EPK official says.
According to her, the project also connected the partner cities, which opens many opportunities for the future, including in the form of cooperation in the drawing of European funds.
However, the project was also marred by financial issues, while the decision to put a public institute in charge of the project Živčič Fišer labels as "the least appropriate".
She says that while in other culture capitals around the world the institution that is in charge of the project is set up five years in advance, in Slovenia such an institute was set up less than a year before the start of the project.
"Many staffing changes in the management and other bodies of the institute in this short period of preparation for the project significantly destabilised the situation and prevented effective work."
Maribor 2012 also has "extraordinary big problems" with paying coproducers due to delays in payments to the institute from the state
The fate of the institute after 1 January 2013 is also uncertain although initially it was envisaged that the institute will operate until 1 July 2013. "Those who pass this decree knew that they will have to enable the institute to function by July 2013," she says.