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Document 02014D0445-20171005

EU action for the European Capitals of Culture 2020 to 2033

EU action for the European Capitals of Culture 2020 to 2033



Decision No 445/2014/EU — EU action for the European Capitals of Culture for the years 2020 to 2033


  • It renews and updates the European Capitals of Culture (ECoC) scheme for the period 2020–2033.
  • It sets out the rules, procedures and the calendar for the designation of European Capitals of Culture during this period.


The European Capitals of Culture initiative celebrates the rich diversity of cultures in Europe and the common features they share by designating two cities each year to carry this title.


Each year, the title is awarded to one city in each of 2 European Union (EU) countries listed in the calendar set out in the decision. Every third year, a third city from a candidate country or a potential candidate country may also be designated.

Selection criteria

  • ‘Contribution to the long-term strategy’: the long-term cultural, social and economic impact of the ECoC year, as well as its sustainability after the year ends.
  • ‘European dimension’: how dialogue and greater mutual understanding between European citizens, both artists and the wider public, is promoted, highlighting common aspects of culture, heritage and history, as well as cultural diversity.
  • ‘Cultural and artistic content’:
    • artistic vision and strategy;
    • involvement of local artists and organisations in the programme;
    • combining new and innovative experimental expression with the local and traditional.
  • ‘Capacity to deliver’: broad political support and commitment to a viable and sustainable infrastructure.
  • ‘Outreach’:
    • involvement of local people in the events, in particular minorities and disadvantaged people;
    • links with education.
  • ‘Management’: feasibility of fund-raising and budgets, overall governance and adequacy of the delivery structure.

Selection process

The competition for the title is launched 6 years in advance and the ECoCs are designated 4 years before the event.

The 2-stage selection process is carried out by a panel of independent experts in the countries concerned:

  • a preselection process after which a shortlist is prepared, with recommendations from the panel to the shortlisted cities;
  • a final selection process takes place 9 months later, with the panel recommending one city for the title.

On the basis of the panel’s recommendation, the EU country concerned designates one city to hold the title and the European Commission then has 2 months to publish the list of the cities designated as European Capitals of Culture. A similar process is used to designate cities from candidate or potential candidate countries.

Once the cities are designated, the panel provides guidance and support while the cities prepare their programmes. During this period, the cities submit regular progress reports and representatives attend regular monitoring meetings.

Decision No 445/2014/EU repeals Decision No 1622/2006/EC. Decision 1622/2006/EC continues to apply in the case of cities designated as ECoCs for the years from 2013 to 2019.

Designated European Capitals of Culture from 2017 to 2020

The following cities are designated EcoCs from 2017 to 2020:

  • 2017: Aarhus (Denmark) and Paphos (Cyprus);
  • 2018: Leeuwarden (Netherlands) and Valletta (Malta);
  • 2019: Plovdiv (Bulgaria) and Matera (Italy);
  • 2020: Galway (Ireland) and Rijeka (Croatia).


It has applied since 4 May 2014.


Since the mid-1980s, when the European Capital of Culture (ECoC) initiative was first launched, there has been increased recognition of the role of culture in cities as a catalyst for creativity, social and territorial cohesion, employment and growth.


Decision No 445/2014/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 establishing a Union action for the European Capitals of Culture for the years 2020 to 2033 and repealing Decision No 1622/2006/EC (OJ L 132, 3.5.2014, pp. 1-12)


Council Decision 2012/309/EU of 10 May 2012 designating the European Capital of Culture for the year 2016 in Spain and Poland (OJ L 154, 15.6.2012, p. 11)

Council Decision 2013/286/EU of 17 May 2013 designating the European Capital of Culture for the year 2017 in Denmark and in Cyprus and the European Capital of Culture for the year 2018 in Malta (OJ L 162, 14.6.2013, p. 9)

Council Decision 2014/352/EU of 21 May 2014 designating the European Capital of Culture for the year 2018 in the Netherlands (OJ L 175, 14.6.2014, p. 26)

Council Implementing Decision 2014/353/EU of 21 May 2014 on the practical and procedural arrangements for the appointment by the Council of three experts of the selection and monitoring panel for the European Capitals of Culture action 2020-33 (OJ L 175, 14.6.2014, pp. 27–30)

Council Decision (EU) 2015/809 of 19 May 2015 designating the European Capitals of Culture for the year 2019 in Bulgaria and Italy (OJ L 128, 23.5.2015, p. 20)

last update 21.11.2016