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The 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 processEdit

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 been 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 it is expected that the UK will no longer be an EU member[5]


The European Capital of Culture programme was launched in the summer of 1985 with Athens being the first title-holder.

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 CultureEdit

Plovdiv (Bulgaria), the European Capital of Culture for 2019
Matera (Italy) is the European Capital of Culture for 2019
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 Timișoara[8]   Romania Timișoara 2021
2 Elefsina[9]   Greece Elefsina 2021
31 Novi Sad   Serbia Novi Sad 2021
2022 Kaunas   Lithuania Kaunas 2022
Esch-sur-Alzette   Luxembourg Esch-sur-Alzette 2022
20232 Veszprém   Hungary Veszprém 2023
2024 1 Tartu   Estonia Tartu 2024
2 TBA 12 November 2019[10]   Austria short-listed candidate cities: Salzkammergut, Dornbirn, St. Pölten
31 Bodø   Norway Bodø 2024
2025 TBA   Slovenia application deadline: 31 December 2019[11]
potential candidate cities: Lendava, Ljubljana, Nova Gorica, Kranj, Ptuj
TBA in fall 2020[12]   Germany candidate cities[13]: Chemnitz,[14] Dresden,[15] Gera, Hannover,[16] Hildesheim,[17] Magdeburg,[18][19] Nürnberg,[20] Zittau
shortlist:12 December 2019[12]
2026 TBA   Slovakia
TBA   Finland application deadline: 5 May 2020[21]
potential candidate cities: Mänttä-Vilppula, Oulu, Saimaa-ilmiö, Tampere Region
2027 1 TBA   Latvia
2 TBA   Portugal potential candidate cities: Aveiro, Braga,[22] Coimbra, Évora, Faro, Guarda, Leiria, Ponta Delgada
2028 TBA   Czech Republic potential candidate cities: Brno,[23]
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,[24] 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 a city in a candidate country or potential candidate for EU membership 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.[21]

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.[25] The candidate cities were Dundee,[26] Leeds, Milton Keynes,[27] Nottingham[28] and a joint bid from Northern Irish cities Belfast, Derry and Strabane.[29] 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 alsoEdit


  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. ^ Selection of the European Capital of Culture in 2021 in Romania, The Selection Panel’s report Pre-Selection Stage
  9. ^ Elefsina to be the European Capital of Culture in Greece in 2021
  10. ^ Bundeskanzleramt (in German) Retrieved 2 October 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ "Informativni dan Evropska prestolnica kulture za leto 2025" (in Slovenian). Center Ustvarjalna Evropa v Sloveniji. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  12. ^ a b "„Kulturhauptstadt Europas 2025": Diese Städte bewerben sich" (in German). Morgenpost. 1 October 2019. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  13. ^ "Auf dem Weg zur „Kulturhauptstadt Europas 2025"" (in German). Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  14. ^ "Chemnitz will Europäische Kulturhauptstadt werden". Archived from the original on 1 December 2016. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  15. ^ Dresden will Kulturhauptstadt 2025 werden Archived 19 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Kulturhauptstadt 2025: Hannover wird offiziell "Candidate City"
  17. ^ "Stadt Hildesheim – Tagung zum Thema „Kulturhauptstadt Europas 2025"". Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  18. ^ "We want to become the European Capital of Culture - with the central idea of "RESPONSIBILITY!"". Magdeburg Sein 2025 Kulturhauptstadt Werden. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  19. ^ "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)
  20. ^ Nürnberg bewirbt sich als Kulturhauptstadt Europas
  21. ^ a b "European Capitals of Culture". European Union. 5 June 2015. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  22. ^ "RUM". Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  23. ^ "Brno Steps Up Preparations For 2028 European Capital of Culture Bid". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  24. ^ "Leuven stelt zich kandidaat als Europese Culturele Hoofdstad 2030". Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  25. ^ Brady, Jon (23 November 2017). "Brexit destroys Dundee's hopes of being European Capital of Culture in 2023". Evening Telegraph. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  26. ^ Lorimer, Scott. "The latest news and sport from Dundee, Tayside and Fife". Evening Telegraph. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  27. ^ "European Capital of Culture". Milton Keynes Council. Archived from the original on 6 June 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  28. ^ "Nottingham 2023".
  29. ^ Meredith, Robbie (5 July 2017). "NI councils make bid for European Capital of Culture title". BBC News. Retrieved 5 July 2017.

External linksEdit