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MADRID – European Union officials said they chose the Spanish city of San Sebastian as one of two European Culture Capitals in 2016 thanks to its “idea to use culture” to combat political discrepancies in the restive Basque region.
EU officials chose the seaside town in Spain’s northern Basque region– home to Spain’s A-list international film festival–above five other Spanish cities and in conjunction with Wroclaw in southwestern Poland.
“It comes at a moment of new promise as terrorism is coming to an end,” San Sebastian International Film Festival Director Jose Luis Rebordinos told the Spanish daily El Pais. “It will give even more significance to the festival.”
Spain’s Basque region has been plagued with violence for more than 40 years as the armed Basque group ETA has waged a bloody campaign for independence for a swath of land that straddles the French-Spanish border, shooting and bombing some 800 people, including politicians, police, journalists, judges and passers-by.
Experts suggest ETA’s ability to carry out violent acts is greatly diminished and recent elections indicate a new political climate in the Basque region.
San Sebastian is an elegant town, with a shell-shaped beach, gourmet cuisine (home to two of the world’s top 10 chefs) and a range of international film and jazz festivals.
“I’m thrilled,” said world-class chef Juan Mari Arzak. “I’ve been impressed by the synergies of how all the San Sebastian inhabitants worked together. We’re a small city, only 180,000 residents. We hardly have anything, but we do have lots of imagination.”
EU culture capitals mark the occasion by organizing exhibits, concerts and artistic performances.
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