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Brussels, 8 January 2010

Essen becomes European Capital of Culture 2010, in the presence of Commission President José Manuel Barroso

President Barroso will be in Essen on Saturday, 9 January 2010 for the inauguration of "'Essen for the Ruhr", European Capital of Culture 2010. German President Horst Köhler will also attend the event. An extraordinary two-day cultural festival open to the public will round off the opening celebrations at the Zollverein industrial complex, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. "Essen for the Ruhr" is one of the three European Capitals of Culture in 2010, together with the cities of Istanbul (Turkey) and Pécs (Hungary).

President Barroso has said: " Essen and the entire Ruhr Basin, with its old heavy-industry complexes, remind us of the beginnings of the European integration project: half a century ago, the first steps were taken towards the creation of the European Union, in the form of peaceful cross-border cooperation in the coal and steel sectors. The Ruhr Basin was therefore one of the starting points for our European project. Today, the region is successfully undergoing fundamental change, without losing any of its character.

"The European Capital of Culture title acts as a catalyst for change, not only in Essen, but also in Pécs and Istanbul. Without culture, Europe and its citizens would lack the inspiration, creativity and spirit of innovation they need for their joint project. I wish to congratulate all those who contribute their vision and energy to the European Capitals of Culture. The European Capital of Culture, which started 25 years ago, is still a flagship initiative of the European Union which succeeds thanks to the commitment of citizens."

Essen has chosen to involve the Ruhr region in its European Capital of Culture programme for 2010. This programme was evaluated in a very positive light by a jury of independent experts against criteria established for the event, and in November 2006, "Essen for the Ruhr" was named European Capital of Culture 2010, together with Pécs in Hungary and Istanbul in Turkey.

Since 2009, the event is held by two Member States each year. In 2010, this will be the privilege of the Federal Republic of Germany and Hungary. In addition to these two Member States, a country outside the EU has also been able to hold the event until this year. Istanbul was therefore appointed European Capital of Culture for 2010, subject to its proposed programme meeting the criteria.

The official opening of Pécs 2010 will take place on 10 January, and Istanbul will inaugurate its programme on 16 January.

Next year, Turku (Finland) and Tallinn (Estonia) will be European Capitals of Culture, followed by Guimar ã es (Portugal) and Maribor (Slovenia) in 2012, and Marseilles (France) and Košice (Slovakia) in 2013.

The European Union is providing the "Essen for the Ruhr" initiative with financial support to the value of € 1.5 million (the value of the Melina Mercouri Prize awarded as part of the European Culture programme) and € 69 million (funds made available via the European Regional Development Fund).

Further information:

Essen (Ruhr), European Capital of Culture 2010 website:

Pécs, European Capital of Culture 2010 website:

Istanbul, European Capital of Culture 2010 website:

Culture web site of the Directorate-General for Education and Culture:

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