European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Selection procedure until 2019

European Commission

“The European Cities of Culture have been chosen until 2004, on an intergovernmental basis; the Member States unanimously selected cities worthy of hosting the event, and the European Commission awarded a grant each year to the city selected.”

A new approach has been decided upon:

Decision 1419/1999/EC, adopted in 1999, changed the procedure for selecting the cities from 2005 onwards. Henceforth, the European Capital of Culture will be decided each year by the Council on a Commission recommendation, which will take into account the view of a jury comprising seven prominent independent members, each of them experts in the culture sector.
The selection will be based on criteria laid down in the above Decision.”

Given the symbolic importance and the positive impact of the “European Capital of Culture” event, and in order to enable the new Member States to participate in this action in the same way as the other Member States, the Parliament and the Council adopted the following modified decision: Decision no649/2005/EC.

The modified decision adds the new Member States to the existing chronological list of Member States (decision 1419/1999/CE).

Moreover, the Commission adopted a proposal aiming at improving the designation process of the European Capitals of Culture. This proposal was debated in the European Parliament and in the Council, and then adopted. The prime aim is to encourage the Member States to organise competitions between cities which would be interested in having the title, to strengthen the selection panel's role, to implement a monitoring phase in order to support the Capitals once designated in their preparatory phase, and specify the selection criterion highlighting the European Dimension.”


Consequently a structured approach has become mandatory:


1. Selection criterion

After Bob Palmer submitted his study about European Capitals of Culture (2004), a further adoption of new guidelines meant a greater precision in the selection criteria, and what is expected of cities to deliver during the bidding process, once selected, during the decisive year of implementation, and follow-up i.e. securing a legacy as indication of having attained a cultural sustainability level to be noted in due course.

2. Competition

Not always competition is possible as the case with Luxembourg or Malta, but the idea behind competition is to get not only more cities to invest in culture and become interested in the idea (Graz applied several times before being successful), but also to ensure some honesty. The latter impolies this should not be a mere top down process with a central government and more specifically the politicians in power making sure this one specific city gets it, but that some better quality in the proposal made is achieved by the city which does receive the designation in the end. Here further examinations are needed what this competition does both to the idea and to culture especially when a country like Italy had 21 cities competing for the title and six made it into the short list. Similar conditions prevailed in countries like Spain, Poland, UK and Germany.

3. Selection panel

Capitals are chosen by an international panel of thirteen members, six of whom are appointed by the country concerned and seven by the EU institutions. While the final decision rests with the Council, their endorsement of the panel's decision is considered a formality.

4. Monitoring process

Unclear remains how the monitoring process shall work during the preparatory phase stretching usually over five years and at the end of which the EU Commission has only the possibility of awarding the Melina Mercouri prize to signify the city is on track.


Choosing a Capital

The Member States of the European Union are invited to host the European Capital of Culture event in turn between 2005 and 2019.

The order, given below, was decided in agreement with the Member States and laid down in the Decision on the European Capital of Culture 2007-19 – 1622/2006/EC

2007 Luxembourg and Romania


2008 United Kingdom

2009 Austria and Lithuania

2010 Germany and Hungary

2011 Finland and Estonia

2012 Portugal and Slovenia

2013 France and Slovakia

2014 Sweden and Latvia

2015 Belgium and Czech Republic

2016 Spain and Poland

2017 Denmark and Cyprus

2018 Netherlands and Malta

2019 Italy and Bulgaria

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