During the last 3 decades, more than 60 cities across Europe have been awarded the European Capital of Culture (ECoC) title. This means for each designated city, in the most general terms, to set up a massive cultural and artistic event during a whole year. The initiative -started in 1985- has become one of the most ambitious and successful cultural projects in Europe, according to the European Union Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. However, despite the large achievements reported in the ex-post evaluations, ECoC remains a fuzzy concept to European citizens, as well as its outreach. Given this, it might be worth it to look at some of the implications of this huge event and try to understand what does it mean in practice to be awarded with this honorable title.
With a significant pro-choice victory in Poland as the country’s conservative PiS government performs a U-turn on restricting access to abortion in the case of incest, rape, fatal foetal abnormality and risk to the mother’s life, it is easy to forget that the EU still has one State in which very few of the above constitute a legitimate cause for abortion.
Last year the Republic of Ireland became the first country to legalise same sex marriage through a popular referendum with an overwhelming victory, which seemed to signal a new liberal turn in a country many people across Europe and the world associate with conservative Catholicism. Yet Ireland, despite calls from the EU, the Council of Europe and the UN, has retained one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, where fatal foetal abnormalities and rape are not considered legal grounds for the termination of a foetus and where, even in the cases where woman’s life would be endangered by seeing a foetus to term, a woman might be denied the necessary treatment. Enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann) the Eighth Amendment prevents a woman having an abortion because the foetus is considered to have an equal right to life: