European Capital of Culture

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The logo owned by European Commission for European Capital of Culture. European Capital of Culture logo.png
The logo owned by European Commission for European Capital of Culture.

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. Being a European Capital of Culture can be an opportunity for a 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. Multiple cities can be a European Capital of Culture simultaneously.


In 1985, Melina Mercouri, Greece’s Minister of Culture, and her French counterpart Jack Lang came up with the idea of designating an annual City 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. The current European Capitals of Culture are Galway, Ireland and Rijeka, Croatia. Initially, Novi Sad, Serbia was selected to be the 2021 European Capital of Culture. However, on 23 December 2020, the European Parliament adopted a proposal by the European Commission to postpone its term until 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, Galway and Rijeka, the 2020 Capitals of Culture, were allowed to prolong their title until April 2021. [2]

Selection process

Melina Mercouri Melina Mercouri (1985).jpg
Melina Mercouri

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) [3] [4] – an example of the latter being Stavanger, 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 cultural development and the transformation of the city. [5] 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 the UK was planning to leave the EU before 2023. [6]


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. [7] In 1999, the European City of Culture program was renamed to European Capital of Culture. [8]

List of European Capitals of Culture

Rijeka (Croatia), the European Capital of Culture for 2020 Capuchin church palace Ploche Rijeka Croatia.jpg
Rijeka (Croatia), the European Capital of Culture for 2020
Galway (Ireland) is the European Capital of Culture for 2020 Galwaycitycollage.jpg
Galway (Ireland) is the European Capital of Culture for 2020
European Capitals of Culture
1985 Athens Flag of Greece.svg  Greece
1986 Florence Flag of Italy.svg  Italy
1987 Amsterdam Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands
1988 West Berlin Flag of Germany.svg  West Germany Berlin since German reunification in 1990
1989 Paris Flag of France.svg  France
1990 Glasgow Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
1991 Dublin Flag of Ireland.svg  Ireland
1992 Madrid Flag of Spain.svg  Spain
1993 Antwerp Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium
1994 Lisbon Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal
1995 Luxembourg City Flag of Luxembourg.svg  Luxembourg
1996 Copenhagen Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark
1997 Thessaloniki Flag of Greece.svg  Greece
1998 Stockholm Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden
1999 Weimar Flag of Germany.svg  Germany
2000 Avignon Flag of France.svg  France The year 2000 was called the millennium year and treated in a special way, in order to emphasize the enduring heritage and contribution of European cities to 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. [9]
Bergen Flag of Norway.svg  Norway
Bologna Flag of Italy.svg  Italy
Brussels Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium
Helsinki Flag of Finland.svg  Finland
Kraków Flag of Poland.svg  Poland
Prague Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czech Republic
Reykjavík Flag of Iceland.svg  Iceland
Santiago de Compostela Flag of Spain.svg  Spain
2001 Rotterdam Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands
Porto Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal
2002 Bruges Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium
Salamanca Flag of Spain.svg  Spain
2003 Graz Flag of Austria.svg  Austria
2004 Genoa Flag of Italy.svg  Italy
Lille Flag of France.svg  France
2005 Cork Flag of Ireland.svg  Ireland
2006 Patras Flag of Greece.svg  Greece
2007 Sibiu Flag of Romania.svg  Romania
Luxembourg City Flag of Luxembourg.svg  Luxembourg
2008 Liverpool Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Stavanger Flag of Norway.svg  Norway
2009 Vilnius Flag of Lithuania.svg  Lithuania
Linz Flag of Austria.svg  Austria Linz 2009
2010 Essen Flag of Germany.svg  Germany Representing the whole Ruhr as Ruhr.2010.
Istanbul Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey
Pécs Flag of Hungary.svg  Hungary
2011 Turku Flag of Finland.svg  Finland
Tallinn Flag of Estonia.svg  Estonia
2012 Guimarães Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal
Maribor Flag of Slovenia.svg  Slovenia
2013 Marseille Flag of France.svg  France Marseille-Provence 2013
Košice Flag of Slovakia.svg  Slovakia
2014 Riga Flag of Latvia.svg  Latvia
Umeå Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden
2015 Mons Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium
Plzeň Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czech Republic
2016 San Sebastián Flag of Spain.svg  Spain
Wrocław Flag of Poland.svg  Poland Wrocław 2016
2017 Aarhus Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark Aarhus 2017
Paphos Flag of Cyprus.svg  Cyprus Pafos 2017
2018 Leeuwarden Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands
Valletta Flag of Malta.svg  Malta Valletta 2018
2019 Matera Flag of Italy.svg  Italy Matera 2019
Plovdiv Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria Plovdiv 2019
2020 – April 2021 Rijeka Flag of Croatia.svg  Croatia Rijeka 2020
Galway Flag of Ireland.svg  Ireland Galway 2020
2022 Kaunas Flag of Lithuania.svg  Lithuania Kaunas 2022
Esch-sur-Alzette Flag of Luxembourg.svg  Luxembourg Esch-sur-Alzette 2022
Novi Sad [10] Flag of Serbia.svg  Serbia Novi Sad 2021
20231 Veszprém Flag of Hungary.svg  Hungary Veszprém 2023
Timișoara Flag of Romania.svg  Romania Timișoara 2023 (Coronavirus postponement)
Eleusis Flag of Greece.svg  Greece Eleusis 2023 (Coronavirus postponement)
20241 Tartu Flag of Estonia.svg  Estonia Tartu 2024
2 Bad Ischl Flag of Austria.svg  Austria Salzkammergut 2024
32 Bodø Flag of Norway.svg  Norway Bodø 2024
2025 Nova Gorica/Gorizia joint bidFlag of Slovenia.svg  Slovenia
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy
GO! 2025
Chemnitz Flag of Germany.svg  Germany Chemnitz 2025
2026TBAFlag of Slovakia.svg  Slovakia TBA end 2021 [11]
shortlisted cities: Nitra, Trenčín, [12] Žilina [13]
Oulu Flag of Finland.svg  Finland Oulu 2026
20271TBAFlag of Latvia.svg  Latvia potential candidate cities: Valmiera, [14] Kuldiga, Cesis, Daugavpils, Jurmala, [15] Liepāja [16]
2TBAFlag of Portugal.svg  Portugal potential candidate cities: Aveiro, Braga, [17] Coimbra, Évora, Faro, Guarda, Leiria, Oeiras, Ponta Delgada
2028TBAFlag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czech Republic potential candidate cities: Brno, [18] Broumov [19]
TBAFlag of France.svg  France potential candidate cities: Clermont-Ferrand, Rouen, Bourges
2029TBAFlag of Poland.svg  Poland
TBAFlag of Sweden.svg  Sweden
20301TBAFlag of Cyprus.svg  Cyprus
2TBAFlag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium potential candidate cities: Leuven, [20] Liège, Kortrijk, Ghent
2031TBAFlag of Malta.svg  Malta potential candidate cities: Tarxien, Cottonera, Sliema, & Gozo
TBAFlag of Spain.svg  Spain potential candidate cities: Cáceres, Granada, Jerez de la Frontera
2032TBAFlag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria
TBAFlag of Denmark.svg  Denmark
20331TBAFlag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands
2TBAFlag of Italy.svg  Italy potential candidate city: Turin [21]

1 The European Capital of Culture was due to be in the UK in 2023. However, due to its decision to leave the European Union, 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. [22] The candidate cities were Dundee, [23] Leeds, Milton Keynes, [24] Nottingham and a joint bid from Northern Irish cities Belfast, Derry and Strabane. [25] This caused anger amongst the UK candidate cities' bidding teams due to the short notice of the decision, and because of the amount of money they had already spent preparing their bids.[ citation needed ]

2 A new framework makes it possible for cities in candidate countries (Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey), potential candidates for EU membership (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo) or EFTA member states (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) 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. [11]

See also

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