Each year, cities chosen as European Capitals of Culture – in 2014 Umeå and Rīga – provide living proof of the richness and diversity of European cultures. Started in 1985, the initiative has become one of the most prestigious and high-profile cultural events in Europe.
More than 40 cities have been designated European Capitals of Culture so far, from Stockholm to Genoa, Athens to Glasgow, and Cracow to Porto.
A city is not chosen as a European Capital of Culture solely for what it is, but mainly for what it plans to do for a year that has to be exceptional. Its programme for the year must meet some specific criteria.
The European Capitals of Culture initiative was set up to:
In addition, studies have shown that the event is a valuable opportunity to:
The Council of the European Union is the only institution that can award the title of European Capital of Culture.
From 2011, two cities – from two different EU countries – are European Capitals of Culture each year.
The procedure for choosing a city starts around six years in advance – though the order of Member States entitled to host the event is fixed before then and is organised in two stages. It involves a panel of independent experts in the cultural field responsible for assessing the proposals. Once designated, the preparations of the European Capitals of Culture are monitored.