Flemish Culture Minister defends art mergers

The Flemish Culture Minister Joke Schauvliege has defended plans to merge the Royal Ballet of Flanders with the Flemish Opera. Ms Schauvliege insists that the reforms will not have any impact on the artistic merit of the Royal Ballet of Flanders.

At the weekend the Ballet's artistic director, Australia's Kathryn Bennetts, rejected plans for the merger.

Ms Schauvliege insists that the Ballet will completely retain its artistic independence. The Ballet and the Opera will in future have a shared business management. The Flemish Culture Minister has denied that the Ballet was not involved in the decision to seek greater co-operation with the Opera.

She points to contacts with the Ballet's director and president. The Culture Minister says that the decision to get the managements of Flemish cultural bodies to co-operate more closely with each other has the support of the entire Flemish Government.

The Flemish Opera, the Royal Ballet of Flanders, the AB Arts Centre in Brussels, the two philharmonic orchestras and the Antwerp Arts Centre deSingel have until the end of 2012 to draw up concrete plans.

"I have the courage to take decisions on the basis of a well considered dossier. I'm not in the business of making myself popular" Ms Schauvliege told the VRT.