European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Cultural Impact Assessment


 Map of ECoC cities shown at Marseilles conference 2013                                                            

European Commission

Press Release: Rīga and Umeå: European Capitals of Culture in 2014

European Commission - IP/13/1313   30/12/2013


Cultural Impact Assessment – a first glance and overview by Hatto Fischer

General consensus: EcoCs are one of Europe's most successful projects

„The European Capital of Culture is one of the most successful and high-profile cultural initiatives of the European Union. The cities are selected by an independent panel on the basis of a cultural programme that must have a strong European dimension, engage local people of all ages, and contribute to the long-term development of the city.“

Critical points in terms of a weak cultural consensus about the claimed success:

- high visibility means generally iconic buildings and getting positive media attention

- the selection process is not as independent as claimed since a lot of political and other influences shape the decision of the jury

- most of the time the European dimension is neglected, local people are not engaged while impact in terms of long term development of the city depends really if serious investments in culture – artists and cultural resources – have been made.


„The year is an opportunity for the cities to transform their image, put them on the world map, attract more tourists and plan a culture-focused development strategy.“

Missed out opportunities

Most telling is that almost all those who live in that city regret afterwards that a real opportunity was missed out. Why is this in general the case despite all claims of success? One possible suggestion could be missing out in opportunities to foster development of the cultural sector which is not to be confused with the creative industry sector.

Likewise a culture-focused development strategy would need to take into account needed changes so that actors, institutions and governments do not drive everything in the direction of only what has 'economic value'. The reduction to a single value is the reason for many failures. Cultural diversity implies organisations are driven by many values.

Long term impact

„The title has a long-term impact, not only on culture but also in social and economic terms, both for the city and for the surrounding region. For example, a study1 has shown that the number of tourists increases by 12% on average compared with the year before the city held the title.

Left out impact assessments

It is not merely a matter of changing the image of a city to improve its attractiveness in terms of tourists coming to that city. Quality of life is measured differently. More so is that cultural impact has to be seen in terms of what contribution the city makes to the institution of European Capitals of Culture, and what impact it has on the overall cultural development within Europe e.g. improvement in standards of literacy and refinement in knowledge transfers, insofar as it brings Europeans together by connecting cultures rather than leaving them imprisoned within national narratives. Also the global impact has to be seen in terms of European foreign policy and trade relationships with non European countries, insofar as the cultural factor alters understanding of other cultures and their different value systems.

Financial support by EU

In addition to receiving a €1.5 million grant from the EU Culture Programme, cities can also benefit from tens of millions of euro from the EU Regional Development Fund.


Budgetary constraints

The cultural sector lacks usually funds and artists are not given the support they need to develop long term projects. In some ways the designation of the title five years in advance does entail this chance, but usually it is not taken due to most cities are driven by a managerial planning concept which does not take into account the artistic side or how to steer the creative process over time so that slowly and eventually something interesting can emerge. It must not be important for the outside world, but can be at first only of interest to those who participate. This is because cultural development has to go through many phases and make experiences possible over time before any claim of consistency can be made.

HF Oct. 2013






^ Top

« Inofficial guide 2010 onwards | Candidate cities - learning from the past what has an impact »