What is the European Capital of Culture?

Each year since 1985 the European Union designates one or more cities as a European Capital of Culture. Chosen cities and their regions are expected to present an innovative year-long cultural programme that highlights the richness and diversity of cultures in Europe.
Galway has fought off competition from Dublin, Limerick and the Three Sisters (Wexford, Waterford and Kilkenny) to win the designation in 2020.

 

What is it?

The European Capitals of Culture initiative is designed to

  • Highlight the richness and diversity of cultures in Europe
  • Celebrate the cultural features Europeans share
  • Increase European citizens’ sense of belonging to a common cultural area
  • Foster the contribution of culture to the development of cities

In addition to this, experience has shown that the event is an excellent opportunity for:

  • Regenerating cities
  • Raising the international profile of cities
  • Enhancing the image of cities in the eyes of their own inhabitants
  • Breathing new life into a city’s culture
  • Boosting tourism

How does it work?

Designation of European Capitals of Culture in EU member states

Six years before the title-year the selected host member states publish a call for applications, usually through their Ministry for Culture. Cities interested in participating in the competition must submit a proposal for consideration.

The submitted applications are reviewed against a set of established criteria during a pre-selection phase by a panel of independent experts in the field of culture. The panel agrees on a short-list of cities, which are then asked to submit more detailed applications.

The panel then reconvenes to assess the final applications and recommends one city per host country for the title. The recommended city will then be formally designated as European Capital of Culture.

The role of the European Commission is to ensure that the rules established at EU level are respected all along the way.

From designation to implementation…

European Capitals of Culture are formally designated four years before the actual year. This long period of time is necessary for the planning and preparation of such a complex event. The panel, supported by the European Commission, has a continuing role during these four years in supporting European Capitals of Culture with advice and guidance and taking stock of their preparations.

At the end of this monitoring period, the panel will consider whether to recommend or not that the European Commission pays the Melina Mercouri Prize (currently €1.5m funded from the EU Creative Europe programme).

… to evaluation of the outcomes

Each year the European Commission publishes an evaluation report on the outcomes of the European Capitals of Culture of the previous year. For the Capitals post 2019, the cities themselves will carry out their own evaluation and send it to the Commission by the end of the year following that of the title.

What are the next steps?

European Capitals of Culture have already been designated until 2020:

2016 – Donostia-San Sebastián (Spain) and Wrocław (Poland)
2017 – Aarhus (Denmark) and Paphos (Cyprus)
2018 – Leeuwarden (Netherlands) and Valetta (Malta)
2019 – Plovdiv (Bulgaria) and Matera (Italy)

2020 – Galway (Ireland) and Rijeka (Croatia)