The European Commission adopted its proposal for the continuation of the European Capitals of Culture initiative and transmitted it to the European Parliament and the Council for the ordinary legislative procedure.
The current legal base for the European Capitals of Culture (ECoC) - Decision 1622/2006/EC - includes a chronological list of Member States indicating the order in which they are entitled to host the event until 2019. However, the competition for the title is launched six years in advance in order to give the cities sufficient time for their preparation before the beginning of the year of the title. The selection for the 2018 ECoC in Malta and in the Netherlands is thus already well underway. Therefore, in order to ensure a smooth transition in 2020, the Commission's proposal for the continuation of the ECoC after 2019 needs to be adopted by the Parliament and the Council in 2013.
The work on the new proposal has been based on a broad range of inputs. These include the conclusions of the 25 year anniversary conference of the ECoC held in March 2010, four independent evaluations of past Capitals, an independent evaluation of the current selection and monitoring procedures, an on-line consultation, a public consultation meeting and DG EAC's own experience of coordinating the initiative since 1999.
These various evaluations and consultations have clearly shown that the ECoC can bring many benefits to cities when they are planned with consideration. They remain first and foremost a cultural event, but they can also have significant social and economic impacts, particularly when the event is embedded as part of a long-term culture led development strategy in the city. It should also be noted that although only one city in each MS can host the event in any given year, the competition has an important leverage effect on the development of new or more effective policies and strategies even in cities which do not win the title.
The ECoC are also highly challenging. Staging a year long programme of cultural activities is demanding and some Capitals have been more successful than others in capitalising on the potential of the title. Therefore, the action would need to be reinforced in the future in order to help all cities to make the most of the title.
The new proposal retains the main features and general structure of the current scheme. It suggests in particular continuing to award the title on the basis of a rotating system among Member States. This option proved to be the only one which ensured an equal opportunity for each Member State to host the title and a geographical balance in the location of the ECoC across the EU.
At the same time, a number of improvements are proposed in order to optimise the potential leverage effect of the initiative: the criteria were made more explicit in order to give more guidance to the candidate cities and more measurable in order to help the panel of experts in the selection and monitoring of cities, the accompanying measures which support the cities during the preparation period have been strengthened, and the conditionality of the money prize awarded to each Capital was reinforced in order to ensure cities keep to their commitments. It is also proposed to open the action again to the participation of candidate and potential candidate countries after 2019, as was the case until 2010.
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