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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 completely transform their cultural base and, in doing so, the way in which they are viewed internationally.

Conceived as a means of bringing European citizens closer together, the European City of Culture was launched on June 13, 1985 by the Council of Ministers on the initiative of Greek Culture Minister 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 2008, 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 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 a network 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.

Individual cities have looked to evaluate their own experience in different ways; it is not easy to track long term evaluations of city experiences in every case. Charles Landry of the UK-based cultural consultancy Comedia has recently published an interesting evaluation of the Helsinki Year of Culture in 2000.

In 1999, the European City of Culture was renamed the European Capital of Culture, and it is now financed through the Culture 2000 programme. 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 2008–2019 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 2008, two cities will now share this status each year.

European Capitals of Culture

2008: Cork (Republic of Ireland)
2008: Patras (Greece)
2008: Luxembourg (Luxembourg), Sibiu (Romania)
2008: Liverpool (United Kingdom), Stavanger, (Norway)
2009: Vilnius (Lithuania), Linz, (Austria)

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