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European Capital of Culture

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European Capital of Culture

The "European Capital of Culture" event gives European cities the opportunity to present a one-year cultural programme that highlights the richness, diversity and shared characteristics of Europe's cultures.


Decision No 1622/2006/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 2006 establishing a Community action for the European Capital of Culture event for the years 2007 to 2019.


This Decision establishes the “European Capital of Culture” event and defines the process for selecting cities to hold the title between 2013 and 2019, as well as the system for monitoring the preparations up to the year of the event.

The cultural programme and its European dimension

Each candidate file will include a cultural programme with a European dimension that must be based on the cultural cooperation objectives set out in Article 167 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (EU). The programme must meet a certain number of criteria, divided into two categories:

  • "the European dimension", which consists of stepping up cooperation between cultural operators at all levels. The programme must also highlight the richness of Europe's cultural diversity and the shared aspects of European cultures;
  • "the city and citizens", with the aim of arousing citizens' interest in the event at European level and strengthening the long-term cultural development of the city.

The programme normally lasts for one year. The Commission will be able to reward the quality of the preparations by granting an award to the city concerned, called the Melina Mercouri prize (financed by the Culture programme).

The selection process

Each EU Member State can host the event in chronological order between 2007 and 2009. From 2011 onwards, two Member States per year are involved.

The selection process comprises four stages:

  • submission of applications: the EU countries concerned publish a call for applicants no later than six years before the event in question is due to begin. Interested cities have ten months from this date to present their application;
  • pre-selection: no later than five years before the start of the event, the selection panel meets to examine the proposals and to propose a shortlist of cities who are invited to pursue the process. This panel comprises thirteen experts, of whom seven are appointed for three years by the European Parliament, the Council, the Commission and the Committee of the Regions. The other six members are chosen by the EU countries concerned;
  • final selection: nine months after the first selection meeting, the panel meets again to examine the programmes of the shortlisted cities, which will have been fleshed out in more detail, and to recommend one of them as the “European Capital of Culture”. At this stage, the panel presents a report to the EU country concerned and to the Commission in which it also makes recommendations to the chosen city;
  • designation: four years before the start of the event, the two EU countries concerned by the year in question, present the application of one city to the European institutions in light of the panel’s recommendations. The Council officially designates one city as the “European Capital of Culture” in the two Member States concerned.

The monitoring phase

Experts appointed by the institutions help the chosen capitals to implement their programmes, in particular by guaranteeing their European added value.

Mid-term monitoring takes place two years before the start of the event and relates to the progress made in the preparation and the European dimension.

Final monitoring takes place no later than eight months before the event, during which the experts take stock and evaluate the preparatory work. They send a report to the Commission and to the cities concerned on their conclusions and recommendation or not for granting the Melina Mercouri prize.


The “European City of Culture” event was launched by the Council of Ministers on 13 June 1985 and has become one of the EU's most popular actions. Because of the high level of citizen participation and its cultural and socio-economic impact, a growing number of cities compete for the title every year. The procedure for designating the “European Capital of Culture” has been amended in order to make it more effective and to adapt it to the needs of an enlarged EU.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision No 1622/2006/EC



OJ L 304 of 3.11.2006


Council Decision 2007/324/EC of 7 May 2007 on the practical and procedural arrangements with a view to the nomination by the Council of the two members of the selection panel and monitoring and advisory panel for the European Capital of Culture Community action [Official Journal L 122 of 11.5.2007].

Last updated: 26.09.2011