Culture minister: Large event organizers need to change summer plans ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa).
Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa). Source: ERR

Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) says organizers who had planned larger events in the summer must review and amend their plans, or postpone the event. In an interview given to ERR's Aleksander Krjukov, Lukas said the government is to finalize exactly how many people constitutes a large event in the second half of next month. Lukas also said that applications were opening for compensation to organizers of canceled or postponed events.

On Monday, the government announced that no public events could take place in Estonia in May and June, and no major events would take place until September. Where does the government set the boundaries by which a major event is defined? How many people must there be at this type of event?

We have now agreed that in the second half of May, immediately after a possible end of the emergency situation, we can talk about the exact numbers. I assume that the epidemiological forecasts for the summer will be more accurate then.

And when we talk about restricting public events and major events, can this still happen after the end of the emergency?

Yes, this decision will probably come in the second half of May. The emergency situation has now been extended, with 17 May being its last day. But if the situation demands it, then, of course, the government is also discussing any extension of the emergency situation, but now it would be too premature to talk about these plans now. We hope that the epidemiological situation does not require this [extension].

By law, would these restrictions actually be introduced by local governments themselves, plus the Health Board?

Yes, when the emergency situation ends in the current sense, a new situation will commence, which is regulated by law in such a way that decisions are made by the Health Board. But all governments have taken on longer-term strategic plans, since the Health Board regulations also reach public events relatively at the last minute, which is definitely more inconvenient for organizers. All European governments are engaged in long-term strategic planning. Some countries have now fully specified the parameters for summer events. They will probably reconsider these as the situation changes.

But in general, yes, in many countries major events are banned until the end of the summer. When it comes to public events, public events are those which don't involve invited guests. This means that where the organizer does not know all the gathered attendees. So, for example, a bonfire held in a backyard is not a public event. However, graduation ceremony of a university or school, where representatives of several generations gather and which, from the government's point of view, could not be held this year, do constitute public events. So public events are banned in May and June in the current view of the government.

What do you say to those concert organizers who have been patiently waiting for signals from the government on how they can plan their work during the summer? Some event organizers would like to start preparing for their events, but they don't know exactly how and to what extent they can do this?

Yes, organizers who have been planning larger events so far have had to redesign their events if they want to hold them. I cannot say exactly that limit at the moment. In some countries, it has been established that events with an audience of 1,000 or more cannot be organized, but less than that may be. My goal, as the Minister of Culture, is definitely to be able to organize open-air performances and smaller concerts in July-August.

However, concerts with tens of thousands of audience members, and an international crowd, should probably be canceled. These also cannot take place elsewhere in Europe, according to current plans. Finland has also banned all festivals until the end of July; public events are limited to 500 people. In Germany, different regions have decided differently, but in Berlin, for example, events with more than 1,000 people cannot not be organized. This means Rammstein couldn't give a concert in Berlin. It is probably not sensible for them to give a big concert here in Estonia either (a planned summer concert at the Song Festival Grounds by U.K. rockers Judas Priest has already been postponed-ed.).

So yes. You have to orient yourself, and those who can't reorient should postpone their event.

Could this same trend of about 1,000 people apply in Estonia, beyond which it would qualify as a major event?

As I said, Finland has raised the limit to 500, another country to 1,000, some countries have not yet made that decision. In France and Belgium, there is a big public debate about what this major event is about, and there is still dissatisfaction with governments about the lack of accurate information. But there is no exact information about this virus. So I don't want that 1,000 exact figure of people to be set in stone right now.

In any case, the government's goal is for cultural life to re-emerge in the summer, and for smaller cultural events to be held. And if the organizers are able to disperse the audience and organize their events in this way, then our goal would be that these events definitely can take place. No one wants to cancel events lightly. Today (Tuesday-ed.), I am to discuss with representatives and organizers via a video conference possible ways to deal with the situation, and we will find solutions.

Can event organizers also count on any additional support from the government to somehow compensate for their reorganized plans and the loss that summer cancellations will cause them?

A special application round for organizers has already been financially decided on by the government; in the coming days we will announce it at the Ministry of Culture, so we will accept applications for possible grants. I think the organizers need these subsidies, but if done now with advance notice and clearly, just as with the government trying to send clear messages in this confusing situation, the damage could be less. That is why we need to announce in advance, not in such a way that the police are going to cancel events at the last minute. In the long run, the government has to make proposals every month in advance. How accurate are these? Time will tell. In the current situation, we are doing this to the best of our knowledge.

This application round is the one that was adopted within the framework of the Supplementary Budget Act passed by the Riigikogu?

This call for proposals is, yes, also covered financially by the supplementary budget. But it is happening as regular application rounds are still announced by the ministry. It is possible to submit applications in the application environment, and we will try to review these as soon as possible. There are seven days in which to apply, and I hope that the first payments will be made as early as mid-May.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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