European Capital of Culture

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A European Capital of Culture is a city designated by the European Union (EU) for a period of one calendar year during which it organises a series of cultural events with a strong pan-European dimension.

Preparing a European Capital of Culture can be an opportunity for the city to generate considerable cultural, social and economic benefits and it can help foster urban regeneration, change the city's image and raise its visibility and profile on an international scale.

In 1985, Melina Mercouri, Greece’s minister of culture, and her French counterpart Jack Lang came up with the idea of designating an annual Capital of Culture to bring Europeans closer together by highlighting the richness and diversity of European cultures and raising awareness of their common history and values. It is strongly believed that the ECoC significantly maximises social and economic benefits, especially when the events are embedded as a part of a long–term culture-based development strategy of the city and the surrounding region.[1]

The Commission of the European Union manages the title and each year the Council of Ministers of the European Union formally designates European Capitals of Culture: more than 40 cities have been designated so far.

Selection process

An international panel of cultural experts is in charge of assessing the proposals of cities for the title according to criteria specified by the European Union.

For two of the capitals each year, eligibility is open to cities in EU member states only. From 2021 and every three years thereafter, a third capital will be chosen from cities in countries that are candidates or potential candidates for membership, or in countries that are part of the European Economic Area (EEA)[2][3]– an example of the latter being Stavanger in Norway, which was a European Capital of Culture in 2008.

A 2004 study conducted for the Commission, known as the "Palmer report", demonstrated that the choice of European Capital of Culture served as a catalyst for the cultural development and the transformation of the city.[4] Consequently, the beneficial socio-economic development and impact for the chosen city are now also considered in determining the chosen cities.

Bids from five United Kingdom cities to be the 2023 Capital of Culture were disqualified in November 2017, because by 2023 the UK is no longer an EU member.[5]


The European Capital of Culture programme was initially called the European City of Culture and was conceived in 1983, by Melina Mercouri, then serving as minister of culture in Greece. Mercouri believed that at the time, culture was not given the same attention as politics and economics and a project for promoting European cultures within the member states should be pursued. The European City of Culture programme was launched in the summer of 1985 with Athens being the first title-holder. During the German presidency of 1999, the European City of Culture programme was renamed to European Capital of Culture.[6]

List of European Capitals of Culture

Rijeka (Croatia), the European Capital of Culture for 2020
Galway (Ireland) is the European Capital of Culture for 2020
European Capitals of Culture
Year # City Country Notes/Links
1985 Athens  Greece
1986 Florence  Italy
1987 Amsterdam  Netherlands
1988 Berlin  East Germany
 West Berlin
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 Avignon  France The year 2000, called the millennium year, was treated by the European Union in a special way, in order to emphasize the enduring heritage and contribution of European cities to the achievements of world culture and civilization. Because of that, nine locations were chosen, including two cities of states that were to join the EU on 1 May 2004.[7]
Bergen  Norway
Bologna  Italy
Brussels  Belgium
Helsinki  Finland
Kraków  Poland
Prague  Czech Republic
Reykjavík  Iceland
Santiago de Compostela  Spain
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 Sibiu  Romania Sibiu 2007
Luxembourg  Luxembourg
2008 Liverpool  United Kingdom
Stavanger  Norway
2009 Vilnius  Lithuania
Linz  Austria Linz 2009
2010 Essen  Germany representing the Ruhr as Ruhr.2010
Istanbul  Turkey
Pécs  Hungary Pécs 2010
2011 Turku  Finland
Tallinn  Estonia
2012 Guimarães  Portugal
Maribor  Slovenia Maribor 2012
2013 Marseille  France Marseille-Provence 2013
Košice  Slovakia
2014 Riga  Latvia Riga 2014
Umeå  Sweden Umeå 2014
2015 Mons  Belgium Mons 2015
Plzeň  Czech Republic Plzeň 2015
2016 San Sebastián  Spain San Sebastián 2016
Wrocław  Poland Wrocław 2016
2017 Aarhus  Denmark Aarhus 2017
Paphos  Cyprus Pafos 2017
2018 Leeuwarden  Netherlands Leeuwarden-Fryslân 2018
Valletta  Malta Valletta 2018
2019 Matera  Italy Matera 2019
Plovdiv  Bulgaria Plovdiv 2019
2020 Rijeka  Croatia Rijeka 2020
Galway  Ireland Galway 2020
2021 1 Eleusis[8]  Greece Elefsina 2021
2| Novi Sad  Serbia Novi Sad 2021
2022 Kaunas  Lithuania Kaunas 2022
Esch-sur-Alzette  Luxembourg Esch-sur-Alzette 2022
20232 Veszprém  Hungary Veszprém 2023
20232 Timisoara  Romania Timisoara 2023
2024 1 Tartu  Estonia Tartu 2024
2 Bad Ischl  Austria Salzkammergut 2024
31 Bodø  Norway Bodø 2024
2025 TBA  Slovenia TBA December 2020[9]
shortlisted cities[10][11]: Ljubljana, Nova Gorica, Piran, Ptuj
TBA  Germany TBA 23 September 2020[12][13]
shortlisted cities[14][15]: Chemnitz,[16] Hannover,[17] Hildesheim,[18] Magdeburg,[19][20] Nürnberg,[21]
2026 TBA  Slovakia application deadline: 31 October 2020[22]
potential candidate cities: Banská Bystrica[23], Hlohovec[24], Martin, Nitra, Prešov, Trenčín[25], Trnava[26], Žilina[27],
TBA  Finland TBA summer 2021[28]
shortlisted cities:[29]Oulu, Savonlinna, Tampere
2027 1 TBA  Latvia
2 TBA  Portugal potential candidate cities: Aveiro, Braga,[30] Coimbra, Évora, Faro, Guarda, Leiria, Oeiras, Ponta Delgada
2028 TBA  Czech Republic potential candidate cities: Brno[31]
TBA  France potential candidate cities: Clermont-Ferrand, Rouen, Bourges
2029 TBA  Poland
TBA  Sweden
2030 1 TBA  Cyprus
2 TBA  Belgium potential candidate cities: Leuven,[32] Liège
2031 TBA  Malta potential candidate cities: Tarxien, Cottonera, Sliema, & Gozo
TBA  Spain potential candidate cities: Cáceres, Granada
2032 TBA  Bulgaria
TBA  Denmark
2033 1 TBA  Netherlands
2 TBA  Italy

1 A new framework makes it possible for cities in candidate countries, potential candidates for EU membership or EFTA member states to hold the title every third year as of 2021. This will be selected through an open competition, meaning that cities from various countries may compete with each other.[22]

2 The European Capital of Culture was due to be in the UK in 2023. However, due to its decision to leave the European Union in 2016, UK cities would no longer be eligible to hold the title after 2019. The European Commission's Scotland office confirmed that this would be the case on 23 November 2017, only one week before the UK was due to announce which city would be put forward.[33] The candidate cities were Dundee,[34] Leeds, Milton Keynes,[35] Nottingham[36] and a joint bid from Northern Irish cities Belfast, Derry and Strabane.[37] This caused anger amongst the UK candidate city's bidding teams due to the very short notice of the decision, and because of the amount of money they had already spent preparing their bids.

See also


  1. ^ Burkšienė, V., Dvorak, J., Burbulytė-Tsiskarishvili, G. (2018). Sustainability and Sustainability Marketing in Competing for the Title of European Capital of Culture. Organizacija, Vol. 51 (1), p. 66-78
  2. ^ "Decision No 445/2014/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014". 3 May 2014.
  3. ^ "European Capitals of Culture 2020 to 2033 — A guide for cities preparing to bid" (PDF). European Commission.
  4. ^ Palmer, Robert (2004) "European Cities and Capitals of Culture" Part I. Part II. Study prepared for the European Commission
  5. ^ "Brexit blow to UK 2023 culture crown bids". BBC News. 23 November 2017. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  6. ^ Kiran Klaus Patel, ed., The Cultural Politics of Europe: European Capitals of Culture and European Union since the 1980s (London: Routledge, 2013)
  7. ^ Association of European Cities of Culture of the Year 2000
  8. ^ Elefsina to be the European Capital of Culture in Greece in 2021
  9. ^ "European Capitals of Culture". European Commission. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  10. ^ "Informativni dan Evropska prestolnica kulture za leto 2025" (in Slovenian). Center Ustvarjalna Evropa v Sloveniji. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  11. ^ "Evropska prestolnica kulture 2025" (in Slovenian). Slovenian Government. 17 December 2019. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  12. ^ "Terminbekanntgabe Verkündung der finalen Entscheidung im Wettbewerb „Kulturhauptstadt Europas 2025"" (in German). Kultusministerkonferenz. 31 January 2020. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  13. ^ "Zeitplan des Nationalen Auswahlverfahrens" (in German). Kultusministerkonferenz. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  14. ^ "Kulturhauptstadt Europas 2025 | Kulturstiftung der Länder". Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  15. ^ "Auf dem Weg zur „Kulturhauptstadt Europas 2025"" (in German). Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  16. ^ "Chemnitz will Europäische Kulturhauptstadt werden". Archived from the original on 1 December 2016. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  17. ^ Kulturhauptstadt 2025: Hannover wird offiziell "Candidate City"
  18. ^ "Stadt Hildesheim – Tagung zum Thema „Kulturhauptstadt Europas 2025"". Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  19. ^ "We want to become the European Capital of Culture - with the central idea of "RESPONSIBILITY!"". Magdeburg Sein 2025 Kulturhauptstadt Werden. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  20. ^ "Magdeburg als Europäische Kulturhauptstadt 2025". Deutsche Public Relations Gesellschaft (in German). 19 March 2015. Archived from the original on 4 September 2015.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  21. ^ Nürnberg bewirbt sich als Kulturhauptstadt Europas
  22. ^ a b "European Capitals of Culture". European Union. 5 June 2015. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  23. ^ "Banská Bystrica sa bude uchádzať o titul Európske hlavné mesto kultúry 2026" [Banská Bystrica will apply for the title of European Capital of Culture 2026]. (in Slovak). 1 May 2020. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  24. ^ "Hlohovec chce byť Európske hlavné mesto kultúry 2026" [Hlohovec wants to be the European Capital of Culture in 2026]. (in Slovak). 30 April 2020. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  25. ^ "Trenčín sa chce stať Európskym hlavným mestom kultúry" [Trenčín wants to be the European Capital of Culture]. (in Slovak). 1 June 2020.
  26. ^ "Trnava má záujem uchádzať sa o titul Európske hlavné mesto kultúry v roku 2026" [Trnava is interested in applying for the title of European Capital of Culture in 2026]. (in Slovak). 28 April 2020. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  27. ^ "Žilina sa chce uchádzať o Európske hlavné mesto kultúry 2026" [Žilina wants to apply for the European Capital of Culture 2026]. (in Slovak). 20 February 2020. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  28. ^ "The 1st Meeting of the Panel for The European Capitals of Culture (ECOC) initiative". Ministry of Education and Culture. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  29. ^ "Three cities in Finland bidding for title of the 2026 European Capital of Culture". Ministry of Education and Culture. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  30. ^ "RUM". Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  31. ^ "Brno Steps Up Preparations For 2028 European Capital of Culture Bid". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  32. ^ "Leuven stelt zich kandidaat als Europese Culturele Hoofdstad 2030". Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  33. ^ Brady, Jon (23 November 2017). "Brexit destroys Dundee's hopes of being European Capital of Culture in 2023". Evening Telegraph. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  34. ^ Lorimer, Scott. "The latest news and sport from Dundee, Tayside and Fife". Evening Telegraph. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  35. ^ "European Capital of Culture". Milton Keynes Council. Archived from the original on 6 June 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  36. ^ "Nottingham 2023".
  37. ^ Meredith, Robbie (5 July 2017). "NI councils make bid for European Capital of Culture title". BBC News. Retrieved 5 July 2017.