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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 12 December 2013

Four Bulgarian cities short-listed for European Capital of Culture 2019

The selection panel evaluating applications from Bulgarian cities competing for the title of European Capital of Culture 2019 met in Sofia from 10-12 December and recommended today that Plovdiv, Sofia, Varna and Veliko Turnovo should be short-listed. Once this recommendation has been confirmed by Bulgaria, the cities have until next summer to complete their applications. The selection panel will meet again in the third quarter of 2014 to recommend which city which will be the European Capital of Culture.

Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: "I am very pleased to see that eight Bulgarian cities took part in the competition to be the first European Capital of Culture in Bulgaria. I warmly congratulate the four cities which have been nominated following the first round of the competition. Just being shortlisted for the title can result in significant cultural, economic and social benefits for the cities concerned, provided that their bid is part of a longer-term culture-led development strategy. The Capitals are an opportunity for Europeans to learn more about each other and to enjoy their shared history and values: in other words, to experience the feeling of belonging to the same European community. I encourage all of the pre-selected cities to make the best of this project."

In accordance with the Decision of the European Parliament and Council of Ministers which sets the criteria for the European Capital of Culture1, Bulgaria and Italy are the two Member States hosting the event in 2019. The pre-selection round in Italy took place in November (IP/13/1092).

Following Marseille (France) and Košice (Slovakia) this year, Umeå (Sweden) and Riga (Latvia) will be European Capitals of Culture in 2014, Mons (Belgium) and Plzen (Czech Republic) in 2015, Wrocław (Poland) and Donastia-San Sebastián (Spain) in 2016, Aarhus (Denmark) and Paphos (Cyprus) in 2017 and Valletta (Malta) in 2018. Leeuwarden (Netherlands) has been proposed as European Capital of Culture in 2018.


Bulgaria invited applications from interested cities at the end of 2012. Eight Bulgarian cities applied: Burgas, Gabrovo, Plovdiv, Ruse, Shumen, Sofia, Varna and Veliko Turnovo.

The applications were examined by a panel composed of 13 independent cultural experts - six appointed by Bulgaria and seven by the European Union institutions.

The members of the panel appointed by the European Union institutions currently are:

  • Appointed by the European Commission: Sir Jeremy Isaacs (United Kingdom) a television executive and a former Director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Manfred Gaulhofer (Austria), Director-General of Graz 2003.

  • Appointed by the Council: Anu Kivilo (Estonia), Managing Director of the International Arvo Pärt Centre; Norbert Riedl (Austria), Head of Department for bi-and-multilateral cultural affairs at the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture.

  • Appointed by the European Parliament: Jordi Pardo (Spain), responsible for cultural projects in the field of international culture; Steve Green (United Kingdom), who has an extensive experience of international cultural relations and the role of culture and languages in society with EUNIC (European Network of National Cultural Institutes) and the British Council.

  • Appointed by the Committee of the Regions: Elisabeth Vitouch (Austria), who represents the Commission for Culture and Education of the Committee of the Regions and is a member of the Vienna City government.

According to the current system for designating the European Capitals of Culture, the selection has two rounds: a pre-selection round, following which a shortlist of candidate cities is drawn up, and a final selection round nine months later. The selected cities are then officially designated by the Council of Ministers of the EU.

For more information

European Capital of Culture

European Commission: Culture

Androulla Vassiliou's website

Follow Androulla Vassiliou on Twitter @VassiliouEU

Contacts :

Dennis Abbott (+32 2 295 92 58); Twitter: @DennisAbbott

Dina Avraam (+32 2 295 96 67)

1 :

Decision No 1622/2006/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 2006

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