Sea Dance will leave Montenegro after the country’s ministry for tourism said it intends to withdraw the funds the festival has been receiving since its inception.
Launched in 2014 by the team behind Serbia’s flagship Exit festival, Sea Dance (cap. 40,000) has so far brought over €60 million to the Montenegrin tourism economy.
Now, the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism says there is no legal way of providing financial assistance Sea Dance Festival due to an EU law that limits state aid.
Subsequently, the Agency for Protection of Competition has ordered the ministry, among other parties, to suspend all cooperation with Sea Dance festival, sealing the fate of the August edition.
“We are forced to react to the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism’s announcement that there is no legal way of providing financial assistance to Sea Dance Festival and point out that this is not true,” reads a statement from EXIT.
“The de minimis limitations that the Ministry mentions in the announcement apply to state aid. However, we once again unequivocally assert that the state’s support for Sea Dance Festival is not aid, but a partnership aimed at the realization of a music festival, with the objective of boosting the local tourism industry and furthering the promotion of the destination.”
EXIT, which last year organised 26 events in 10 countries throughout Europe and the world, has such commercial partnerships with state institutions in numerous countries worldwide, including several EU countries.
“We once again unequivocally assert that the state’s support is not aid, but a partnership aimed at the realization of a festival”
Among these are the City of Umag and the Croatian Tourist Board, which provide substantial support for the Sea Star (cap. 40,000) festival in Croatia, held in Umag last weekend.
The statement from EXIT continues: “Bearing in mind, over the previous nine years, no government agency has made even the slightest comment of this nature and that the procedure was initiated only now, before the upcoming elections — the whole situation points to pre-election political manoeuvres, which the music festival does not want to be involved in or become collateral damage of.”
Organisers say they have already received offers to host this year’s edition in several countries, among them Croatia, Bulgaria, and Turkey.
Sea Dance brought some of the world’s biggest music stars to Montenegro, including The Prodigy, Jamiroquai, David Guetta, Skrillex, Underworld, Fatboy Slim, John Newman, Sean Paul, Robin Schulz, Boris Brejcha, Tale of Us, Sven Väth, Nina Kraviz, Amelie Lens, Maceo Plex, Richie Hawtin, Rudimental, Róisín Murphy, Hurts, Lost Frequencies, Nile Rodgers, Mahmut Orhan, as well as the biggest regional acts.
The government of Montenegro, in 2014, estimated that Sea Dance would bring more than €100 million to Montenegrin tourism by 2025 and that it would “significantly contribute to the improvement of business, not only in the tourism sector but in the overall economy of Montenegro.”
EXIT’s statement concluded: “If even after the festival’s €60 million contribution to Montenegrin tourism, the introduction of the world’s biggest music stars to Montenegro, and the inestimable value of promoting the destination, the government institutions still do not understand that supporting Sea Dance is not state aid but one of the best investments they could make — it is apparent that this festival is not welcome by Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism and that it should not take place in Montenegro this year.”
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