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
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
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)