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Member of the European Commission responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth

25th years of European Capitals of Culture – Opening speech

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Conference on 25th Anniversary of Capitals of Culture

Palais-des-Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 23 March 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to open today’s conference celebrating 25 years of European Capitals of Culture just a few weeks after taking up the post of European Commissioner for Education and Culture.

My current portfolio may seem far from the previous one, in which I was responsible for Health. But the two portfolios have one thing in common: they directly touch upon European citizens' everyday life.

Education and culture are at the very heart of our ambition for Europe for the years to come. Together with my services, we will work hard to meet our objectives and give education and culture the impetus they deserve in the next five years.

Two weeks ago, the Commission adopted a proposal for the transformation of the 'European Heritage Label' into a formal EU initiative.

I am very proud that my first initiative in the field of culture aims to highlight sites which celebrate and symbolize European integration, ideals and history.

I believe that the label will contribute to strengthening European citizens' sense of belonging to the European Union and promote mutual understanding in Europe.

The main benefits for European citizens, especially for young people, will be new opportunities to learn about our common yet diverse cultural heritage, about the history and the building of the European Union, and about the democratic values and human rights that underpin European integration.

Indeed, concerted action in the field of culture can make a real difference to people’s lives and contribute to the process of European integration.

The success of the European Capitals of Culture initiative is excellent proof of this. Today and tomorrow we are celebrating 25 years of the European Capitals of Culture.

Since Athens was designated the first Capital of Culture in 1985, over 40 cities have held the title.

The event has become one of the most visible and prestigious initiatives of the European Union.

The scale of the initiative, its European dimension, and the potential economic and social benefits which it can bring to cities and regions make it a truly remarkable endeavour.

I am delighted that we have over 500 participants here today from across Europe; I welcome you all. A special welcome goes to the representatives of 38 past, present and future Capitals, and to the representatives of the cities that may bid for the title in the years to come.

During these two days of celebrations, we will have an opportunity to listen to many fascinating stories. It is these narratives that made the European Capitals of Culture one of the best and best known cultural events in Europe.

We will also have a strategic reflection on the impact of the initiative with a view to helping future Capitals make a long–term success of the event.

Last but not least, these two days will also give us the opportunity to exchange best practices between past, present and future cities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am therefore delighted that we have here today eminent representatives who can tell us about the European Capitals from different perspectives:

- President Barroso, who will say some words from the Commission's perspective;

- Ms Doris Pack, chairperson of the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education, who will say some words from the Parliament's perspective; and

- Mr Bob Palmer, who can give us a practitioner's perspective, as he was the Director of Glasgow 1990 and Brussels 2000

The floor is yours President Barroso,

[President Barroso’s speech]

Thank you President.

Now, I would like to invite Ms Doris Pack to share with us the perspective from the European Parliament.

[Ms Doris Pack’s speech]

Thank you very much Ms Pack. The European Parliament has indeed always been an essential partner for the development of the European Capitals of Culture.

The next speaker is Mr Bob Palmer. Bob Palmer has been involved with the European Capitals of Culture for more than twenty years now. As I mentioned earlier, he was the director of Glasgow 1990 and Brussels 2000. He was also a member of the selection panel and he is the author of a detailed study on the European Capitals of Culture from 1995 to 2004. Mr Palmer, could you please tell us about the initiative from a practitioner's perspective?

[Mr Bob Palmer's speech]

I would like to thank President Barroso, Ms Pack and Mr Palmer for their contributions and also for sharing their very personal experiences with the European Capitals of Europe, a European initiative we can all be very proud of.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I wish you a fruitful and enjoyable discussion this afternoon and I look forward to seeing you later today at the opening of the exhibition dedicated to the Capitals of Europe.

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