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.
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.
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)- 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. Consequently, the beneficial socio-economic development and impact for the chosen city are now also considered in determining the chosen cities.
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. In 1999, the European City of Culture program was renamed to European Capital of Culture.
|1988||West Berlin||West Germany||Berlin since German reunification in 1990|
|2000||Avignon||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.|
|Santiago de Compostela||Spain|
|2010||Essen||Germany||Representing the whole Ruhr as Ruhr.2010.|
|2020 - April 2021||Rijeka||Croatia||Rijeka 2020|
|Novi Sad||Serbia||Novi Sad 2021|
|Timi?oara||Romania||Timi?oara 2023 (Coronavirus postponement)|
|Eleusis||Greece||Eleusis 2023 (Coronavirus postponement)|
|2||Bad Ischl||Austria||Salzkammergut 2024|
|2025||Nova Gorica/Gorizia joint bid|| Slovenia
|2026||TBA||Slovakia||TBA end 2021|
shortlisted cities: Nitra, Tren?ín,?ilina
|2027||1||TBA||Latvia||potential candidate cities: Valmiera,Kuldiga, Cesis, Daugavpils, Jurmala,Liep?ja|
|2||TBA||Portugal||potential candidate cities: Aveiro, Braga, Coimbra, Évora, Faro, Guarda, Leiria, Oeiras, Ponta Delgada|
|2028||TBA||Czech Republic||potential candidate cities: Brno, Broumov|
|TBA||France||potential candidate cities: Clermont-Ferrand, Rouen, Bourges|
|2||TBA||Belgium||potential candidate cities: Leuven, Liège, Kortrijk, Ghent|
|2031||TBA||Malta||potential candidate cities: Tarxien, Cottonera, Sliema, & Gozo|
|TBA||Spain||potential candidate cities: Cáceres, Granada, Jerez de la Frontera|
|2||TBA||Italy||potential candidate city: Turin|
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. The candidate cities were Dundee, Leeds, Milton Keynes, Nottingham and a joint bid from Northern Irish cities Belfast, Derry and Strabane. 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.
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.