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European Capitals of Culture

Riga, Kulturhauptstadt 2014 (© Flickr, t.bo79 )
Each year, at least two cities become the centre of European cultural events. But who decides which city is chosen as European Capital of Culture? And which cities are next in line?

European Capital of Culture is a European Union cultural initiative. The title has been awarded annually since 1985, and since 2009 to a minimum of two cities per year. During the year, numerous cultural events take place in the chosen cities.  

The initiative aims to feature the wealth, variety and commonality of the European cultural heritage and to further a better understanding amongst the citizens of Europe. By awarding the title “Capital of Culture” to a city, the specific cultural aspects of that city, region or country are being introduced and made accessible to the European public.

Who decides?
Initially, the Ministers for Culture within the European Council of Ministers decided which city would be Capital of Culture. In 2006, the European Parliament (EP) and the European Council of Ministers agreed upon a multi-stage selection process. The final decision is taken by the Council of Ministers based on a jury vote as well as EP representations.

Which cities can be chosen?
As a means of including the new EU member states as quickly as possible, two Capital of Culture titles are awarded each year since 2009 – one each from the original and the new member states. In 2015, for example, the title “European Capital of Culture” was awarded to Mons in Belgium and Plzen in the Czech Republic, and in 2016 to San Sebastián (Spain) and Wroclaw (Polen). For a list of all European Capitals of Culture since 1985, see Wikipedia:


Up until 2019, the succession is regulated by resolution. To safeguard the continuation of the initiative from 2020 onwards, the Council of Ministers adopted a European Commission proposal on 24 March 2014 that establishes a framework for awarding the title from 2020 to 2033. Nowadays the title “EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE” may be awarded every three years to cities in countries that are candidates or potential candidates for EU membership.

Published: Wed, 23/11/2016 - 14:54

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