Melina Mercouri Prize awarded to the two 2019 European Capitals of Culture

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Melina Mercouri Prize has been awarded to the two 2019 European Capitals of Culture Matera (Italy) and Plovdiv (Bulgaria).

The European Commission decided to award the €1.5 million Melina Mercouri Prize to each of the two cities that will be European Capital of Culture in 2019 – Matera (Italy) and Plovdiv (Bulgaria). Commissioner Tibor Navracsics said: "The title of European Capital of Culture is a unique opportunity to bring communities together through culture and to foster strong local, European and international partnerships for the future."

The decision for the award is based on the positive recommendation of a panel of independent experts in the field of culture. The panel also expressed further recommendations to the two European Capitals of Culture 2019 for the last preparatory phase. See the full recommendations for Matera and for Plovdiv.

The European Capital of Culture is one of the most high-profile cultural initiatives in Europe. The cities are chosen on the basis of a cultural programme that must have a strong European dimension, engage and involve the city's inhabitants and contribute to the long-term development of the city. Started in 1985 on the initiative of the then Greek Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri, European Capitals of Culture have developed into one of the most ambitious cultural projects in Europe and became one of the best known – and most appreciated – activities of the European Union.

The original motivation of the project is more relevant than ever. It is to provide Europeans with an opportunity to learn more about each other's cultures, to enter into intercultural dialogue and to enjoy their shared history and values. The initiative is now open to cities in candidate countries or potential candidates for EU membership every third year as of 2021.

After Matera (Italy) and Plovdiv (Bulgaria) in 2019, the next cities to host the title will be Galway (IE) and Rijeka (HR) in 2020, Novi Sad (Serbia), Elefsina (Greece) and Timisoara (Romania) in 2021.