Hogan Lovells has successfully represented the Malta Foundation in a dispute against Poland's Ministry of Culture and National Heritage before the Regional Court in Warsaw.
In 2016, the Malta Foundation and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage entered into a three-year contract to have the Malta Foundation organize the "Malta Festival Poznan," in return for annual dedicated subsidies. The Ministry did not pay a subsidy of PLN 300,000 in 2017, however, because Olivier Frljic, a stage director and the author of the play The Curse, became one of the Festival curators, and The Curse generated protests by conservative groups, who claimed the play insulted religious feelings.
According to Hogan Lovells, "at the first hearing on March 25, 2019, the Malta Foundation’s procedural representative pointed out that although the proceedings concerned primarily the issue of the Ministry’s non-performance of the contract, the circumstances of the case might also suggest a violation of the artistic freedom guaranteed by the Constitution, in the form of so-called soft censorship." The General Counsel to the Republic of Poland, which represented the Ministry, claimed that the complaint should be dismissed in its entirety, arguing that the Ministry had the full right not to pay the subsidy for the festival organization in 2017.
According to Hogan Lovells, the Regional Court concluded "that the obligation was of a purely contractual nature. The court also found that the provisions of the 2016 agreement for the payment of subsidies earmarked for the organization of the Malta Festival Poznan in 2016-2018 were clear and unambiguous. The court noted that the agreement entitled the Ministry to reduce the fee only in strictly-defined situations, but emphasized that none of these situations had occurred in the case at hand. The court also pointed out that the Ministry had known that Oliver Friljic would be the Festival’s Curator as early as in 2015, so his appointment should not have led to the refusal of the subsidy for the Malta Foundation."
As such, the Court ordered the State Treasury represented by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage to pay a subsidy of PLN 300,000 plus interest to the Malta Foundation on account of the unpaid dedicated subsidy originally granted in 2017 for the organization of the Malta Festival Poznan.
The court's judgment is not yet final.
Hogan Lovells' team consisted of Counsel Wojciech Marchwicki and Associate Przemyslaw Tacij.