EU presidency agrees to cover toilet art

16th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Czech EU presidency has agreed to cover or remove part of an official artwork which portrays Bulgaria as a squat toilet, a Bulgarian diplomat said Thursday.

BRUSSELS - "The Czech ambassador sent us a letter telling us that they will either remove or cover up" the offending item, Betina Joteva, first secretary for the Bulgarian EU embassy, told AFP.

Earlier Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra, officially opening the exhibit, apologised for any offense it may have caused.

"I apologise to Bulgaria and its government if it feels offended, and I think we are certainly ready to engage in a dialogue," Vondra told reporters at the unveiling of the massive "Entropa" exhibit which now dominates the grand foyer of the main EU Council building in Brussels.

"If you stand by your request to remove it, of course we will certainly do that," he added, addressing a Bulgarian diplomat attending the ceremony.

However, Vondra did not contemplate taking down the whole artwork.

The controversial artwork, which covers 170 square feet (16 square metres), was commissioned by the Czechs, who assumed the EU presidency for six months on January 1.

It consists of three-dimensional depictions of the EU member states, each one offering a crude national stereotype.

Thus Italy transformed into a giant football pitch with players holding strategically-placed footballs, while the German part of the exhibit has a hint of a swastika about it.

Britain is totally absent from the artist's view of Europe while France is presented as "on strike".

Slovakia also voiced disapproval over its depiction on the painting.

"Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Jan Kubis expressed his objections to the portrayal of Slovakia in a phone call with the Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra on Monday, before the artwork was revealed," the ministry said in a statement.

The map depicts Slovakia as a Hungarian sausage or a human body tied by a red-green-and-white string, the national colours of Hungary, apparently referring to the historically tense relations of the two neighbours.

According to the Slovak foreign ministry, Slovakia will evaluate the reactions of other EU member states to the artwork and consider asking the Czech Republic to remove its image.

Joteva said that while the Czech ambassador had agreed to do something about the offending Bulgarian depiction, he had told the Bulgarians that it would take some time to get the proper equipment in place.

"We just want to see this thing removed," she said, adding that she expected action to be taken on Friday.

The original idea had been that an artist from each of the 27 EU member states would depict their own country, but Czech artist David Cerny has admitted making it all himself with a couple of associates.

"I cannot accept to see a toilet on the map of my country," Joteva said. "This is not the face of Bulgaria."

AFP/ Paul Harrington/ Expatica

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