Each year, cities chosen as European Capitals of Culture – in 2011 Tallinn, and Turku – 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:
- highlight the richness and diversity of European cultures
- celebrate the cultural ties that link Europeans together
- bring people from different European countries into contact with each other's culture and promote mutual understanding
- foster a feeling of European citizenship.
In addition, studies have shown that the event is a valuable opportunity to:
- regenerate cities
- raise their international profile and enhance their image in the eyes of their own inhabitants
- give new vitality to their cultural life
- raise their international profile, boost tourism and enhance their image in the eyes of their own inhabitants.
Selecting a Capital of Culture
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.