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Row erupts over Spanish city’s culture crown

Rival Spanish cities are up in arms after they lost to San Sebastian in a contest to be chosen as European Cultural Capital for 2016.

The choice of the northern Basque city irked rivals in particular because the municipality has been run since June 11 by pro-Basque independence coalition Bildu.

Bildu, which won the most seats in San Sebastian in May 22 local elections, was able to field candidates only after a lengthy court battle to prove it was not a mouthpiece for armed separatists ETA.

The president of the jury, Manfred Gaulhofer, sparked further protest by justifying the choice of San Sebastian because of the “great commitment against violence and the idea of using culture for that.”

Other Spanish candidates — Zaragoza, Burgos, Cordoba, Segovia and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria — protested the result.

And Zaragoza asked for the choice to be reviewed to check whether the jury was wrongly influenced by politics.

Zaragoza mayor Juan Alberto Belloch warned that Bildu would take advantage of the win. “Every act will be converted into propaganda by a certain political grouping,” he said.

The mayor called Thursday on Culture Minister Angeles Gonzalez Sinde to re-consider the candidacies, saying the jury’s political argument was “unacceptable”.

He did not rule out going to the courts.

Gonzalez Sinde replied that it was a European Commission project and San Sebastian “deserved to win”.

Environment Minister Rosa Aguilar, a former mayor of Cordoba, criticised the argument that choosing San Sebastian as a cultural capital would contribute to peace because “they are two different things”.

Spain’s cabinet plans to study the matter at a regular weekly meeting on Friday.

San Sebastian, known for its shell-shaped bay and annual film festival, was among six Spanish cities in the running for the prestigious tourist-friendly title and the chance to host a series of cultural events.

It will share the 2016 title with the Polish city of Wroclaw.