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The last 7 December the Italian public opinion has been shocked by the “Rapporto sulla situazione sociale del Paese” that Censis, the Italian Centre for Social Investment Studies, publishes annually. Among the various themes involved, the report highlights education: a perturbing portrait comes out. Italians invest less and less in their human capital and this is a defeat for a Country, since investing on ourselves means investing in our future and our competitiveness. The Government itself invests little in the sector: maybe because of its low electoral receptivity, Italy occupies the bottom spots in Europe, with only Romania, Bulgaria and Ireland having worst performances. According to Eurostat, the ratio education expenditure/GDP adds up to 3.9%, in contrast with an European average of 4.7%. Against this backdrop, the situation of the South, a source of culture that appears almost resigned to the seemingly insuperable socio-economic gap with the North. Education and culture are not to be mixed up but, being interrelated, they are mutually dependent. Such interdependence must be capitalized: if investments on education are scarce, we need to focus on those projects that put culture at the centre. This premises make clear that there is a need for rehabilitation, something that has to pass through the promotion culture: the real richness of the Bel Paese.

In light of this situation a little city of Basilicata stands out, it is Matera, whose famous Sassi (districts constituted by buildings built in natural caves) are already protected by Unesco. Matera has in fact been selected, together with Plovdiv in Bulgaria, as the European Capital of Culture 2019. As stated by the European Commission, the European Capital of Culture is one of the most recognised EU projects that aims to put cities at the heart of cultural life across Europe. Promoting new ideas, bringing new life to the cities and foster their social and economic development: these are the objectives of a project that is ambitious but concrete. A project that since 1985, date of onset, brings investments that are capable of accomplishing not only a cultural growth, but also an economic one. For instance, still according to the EU Commission, each euro of public money invested in Mons (Belgium 2015) is estimated to have generated between 5.5 and 6 euros for the local economy.

Matera’s cultural project revolves around the slogan Open Future, it puts the openness of the European society at the centre, focusing in particular on cultural and social inclusion, challenges that need to be tackled in our globalised world. Starting from this basis, the event expands itself in various ramifications, each characterised by its own theme such as, for example, Remote Future. The topic analyses mathematics and the “infinite possibilities of the dialogue between man and nature” starting from Pythagoras, the famous ancient resident of the region. Noteworthy is Continuity and Breaks, a theme that puts emphasis on the growing social inequalities, the issue of migration, the incapacity of some cities to ensure a future to the new generations and, in particular, on the conflicting relation of Matera with modernity. The awful living conditions, national shame according to Togliatti, that brought the city to the emptying, constitute a historical account of a city that was able to come back to life. Being the host city of such an important event does not only represent the apex of this revival, but also the responsibility of being an example to be followed. Even the President, Sergio Mattarella, declared that Matera is a symbol of a South that does not give up and innovates. Its rehabilitation is possible and Europe, through such means, can help us in doing this. We should not forget that culture constitutes the connective tissue of society and that the EU is based on the promotion of the cultural heritage of its people.

Alberto Pozzebon

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