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European Capitals of Culture
European Capitals of Culture

The European Capital of Culture is a city designated by the European Union for a period of one year during which it is given a chance to showcase its cultural life and cultural development. A number of European cities have used the City of Culture year to transform completely their cultural base and, in doing so, the way in which they are viewed internationally.


Conceived as a means of bringing citizens of European Union (or EC, as then was) closer together, the European City of Culture was launched on June 13, 1985 by the Council of Ministers on the initiative of the Greek Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri. Since then, the initiative has been more and more successful amongst European citizens and has had a growing cultural and socio-economic impact on the numerous visitors it has attracted.

The European Cities of Culture were designated on an intergovernmental basis until 2004; the Member States unanimously selected the cities most likely to welcome the event and the European Commission granted a subsidy to the selected city each year. As of 2005, the EU's institutions will take part in the selection procedure of the cities that will host the event.

In 1990, the Ministers of Culture launched the "European Cultural Month". This event is similar to the European City of Culture but goes on for a shorter period and is addressed to Central and Eastern European countries in particular. The European Commission grants a subsidy for the European Cultural Month each year.

As early as 1991, the organisers of the different European Cities of Culture created the Network of European Cultural Capitals and Months— enabling the exchange and dissemination of information, also to the organisers of future events. This network also carried out in 1994 a study on the impact of the European City of Culture since its creation. ECCM is a non profit organisation based in Luxembourg and acting in close collaboration to the European Institutions. Since 2006 it will present in every Cultural Capital and in former ones a travelling exhibition "A Journey to the World: Cultural Capitals". The exhibition is inaugurated for the first time in Patras, Greece on the 27th of March 2006.

In 1999, the European City of Culture was renamed the European Capital of Culture, and it is now financed through the Culture 2000 programme. Cork City, in Ireland, was the first city in Europe to hold the prestigious Capital of Culture title. The European Parliament and Council Decision of May 25, 1999 integrates this event into the Community framework and introduces a new selection procedure for the Capitals for the 2005–2019 period. This was done to avoid overly fierce competition to win the accolade; each EU member nation will be given the opportunity to "host" the capital in turn. Starting in 2005, two cities will now share this status each year.

In 2004, the European Commission asked Robert Palmer, director of Palmer-Rae Associates, to evaluate the programme of European Capitals of Culture 1994-2004, following an earlier evaluation study examining European Capitals of Culture 1985-1993. The latest study comprehensively deals with cultural, economic, visitor, social and European perspectives of the European Capital of Culture action. It comprises two volumes: one of summary findings, analyses and conclusions; a second of individual case studies. Both volumes can be freely downloaded.

Based on Palmer's findings, the European Commission has made recommendations for changing the procedures for selecting and monitoring European Capitals of Culture and for placing increased emphasis on the cultural and European components of the action.

It is likely that the Parliament will agree to such changes, and continue the action of European capitals of Culture until at least 2019, with the designation of two European Capitals of Culture each year.

On 11 March 2006, the Turkish city of Istanbul, the Hungarian city of Pécs and the German city of Essen (representing the Ruhrgebiet region) were selected as European Capitals of Culture for 2010 by the EU council.

Only European cities within member states of the EU are eligible — other European cities are not. However, the EU council can designate one city from a non-EU country for a given year, if that city's designation is approved unanimously in the council.

European Capitals of Culture
1985: Athens (Greece)
1986: Florence (Italy)
1987: Amsterdam (Netherlands)
1988: West Berlin (West Germany)
1989: Paris (France)
1990: Glasgow (United Kingdom)
1991: Dublin (Ireland)
1992: Madrid (Spain)
1993: Antwerp (Belgium)
1994: Lisbon (Portugal)
1995: Luxembourg (Luxembourg)
1996: Copenhagen (Denmark)
1997: Thessaloniki (Greece)
1998: Stockholm (Sweden)
1999: Weimar (Germany)
2000: Reykjavík (Iceland), Bergen (Norway), Helsinki (Finland), Brussels (Belgium), Prague (Czech Republic), Krakow (Poland), Santiago de Compostela (Galicia, Spain), Avignon (France), Bologna (Italy)
2001: Rotterdam (Netherlands), Porto (Portugal)
2002: Bruges (Belgium), Salamanca (Spain)
2003: Graz (Austria)
2004: Genoa (Italy), Lille (France)
2005: Cork (Ireland)
2006: Patras (Greece)
2007: Luxembourg (Luxembourg) — Sibiu (Romania)
2008: Liverpool (United Kingdom) — Stavanger (Norway)
2009: Linz (Austria) — Vilnius (Lithuania)
2010: Essen (Germany) — Pécs (Hungary) — Istanbul (Turkey)
2011: Turku (Finland) — Tallinn (Estonia)
2012: Guimarães (Portugal) — Maribor (Slovenia)
2013: Marseille (France) — Kosice (Slovakia)
2014: Umea (Sweden) — Riga (Latvia)
2015: Mons (Belgium) — Plzen (Czech Republic )
2016: Donostia - San Sebastián (Spain) — Wroclaw (Paoland)
2017: Denmark — Cyprus
2018: Netherlands — Valetta (Malta)
2019: Italy – Bulgaria

Please note: Between 2007 and 2019 multiple cities are named European Capital of Culture.


Sofia Bournatzi


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