European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

ECoC Public Consultation in Brussels 2.3.2011


Hubert Georg Feil and Roland Zarzycki from Wroclaw 2016 with Mary Miller working for Burgos 2016 in background


Brussels 2 March 2011

The EU Commission put forward a questionnaire. The purpose of the public consultation was to discuss the outcome of this survey and to evaluate priorities, selection criteria and concepts in view of recent experiences with the ECoC title having been designated to not merely cities but entire regions.

Below are listed points articulated by various stakeholders at that meeting in Brussels. The points are mere sketches of ideas still in need of further precision if they are going to provide a map into the future, that is what should happen with the title of European Capital of Culture after 2020.

What follows does not express the opinion of the European Commission.

The aim of to publish some public truths about European Capitals of Culture while the expressions thereof are a part of an ongoing learning process. As first sketches they have, however, the potential of making visible a first interpretative framework within which the answers to the questionnaire can be evaluated. For that to happen there is needed in a second phase an agreement between these stakeholders and the European Commission.

Hatto Fischer

I. objectives and selection criteria - relevance

Some opinions during the first round:

Ulrich Fuchs (involved in bid for Bremen, then artistic director of Linz '09 and now involved in Marseilles 2013) - how to emphasize certain features of a city e.g. migration

Representative from Riga - would have wished more communication in terms of content as to experiences of previous ECoC and since there has to be found that delicate balance between artistic program and political governance in need to be also proven, learning from previous cities on how they achieved this would be most helpful.

Mary Miller (Stavanger 2008, now working for Burgos, one of the candidate cities in Spain) - the risk of experts working for European Capital of Culture organisations and if not handled well shall damage the reputation; also the time period of working for ECoC is much longer than just this one year hence she proposes the title should be awarded for three years instead of as now the case only for one year.

Trevor Davis - competition between cities can turn so negative because a city and its program is put into a national context and that cannot be reconciled with the demands upon culture

Artistic director of Warszawa - the criteria should not be so concrete but rather be open to allow the cities to come up with some real artistic concept containing surprise, excitement and innovation. The selection process should give to the culture of the city a freedom to express itself.

Rodolfos Maslias - how to include the experts of culture in the selection process

Mannheim representative - how sharp should be the criteria when things are not measurable even though there exists qualitative evaluation and why make the only sharp criterion less sharp since the extension of city to region as seen on hand of Lille, Luxembourg, Ruhr 2010 and Marseilles does not serve that original purpose, namely to focus on places where cultural developments do take place and this means in urban centres

Else Christensen Redzepovic - she wishes to include the regional aspect as it is in the interest of the Sonderborg 2017 bid to include the cross cultural work within the Danish-German border region.

Gleb Firsov - the situation in Russia is not the same as for the ECoC within Europe but this concept of having a Capital of Culture can be copied within the Russian federation. This is being done already within the Volga region. More so, he would argue for use of culture as form of interactive practice with Third countries.


                 Aleksandra Szymarska from Gdansk 2016

2. What are the potential long term benefits for cities holding the title and for their citizens

Ulich Fuchs in Linz '09 - with Jean Pierre to do EXTRA EUROPE by including a non European partner in the event

Belgrade representative - long term benefits in developing a strategy by which local processes become involved in the decision making as to the future of the city and this linked to the European dimension and in so doing overcome the marginalisation of culture. ECoC is a good motivator for entry into the European Union and can fasten development as it sets free considerable energies.

Riga - coming from a part of Europe where East and West come together she hopes that in future 'we in Riga' are perceived more as city of Europe and not as one in Eastern Europe. How to achieve European identity has to mean therefore that the term 'third country' has also to be reformulated. It should be done since there is a need and desire to be a part of one Europe. Thus there could be developed a cooperation scheme for one city being European Capital of Culture while having a city in a Third Country for one month to do together a festival.

Trevor Davis - allow for three cities to apply together on the basis of the networks they have created and hence include more partnerships rather than having parallel events and programs

Turku representative - we should not forget the media on how interest in ECoC is communicated and this would mean to look at what brand the title has become since the media gives a lot of interest to a city once it has received the title. The brand has an economic value and would be very much lost for the European Union and Europe, if this brand would not be sustained. Important is to include cross border partnerships. At international level the ECoC should connect with the world and thus they have started cultural cooperation with Japan.

Jordi Pascuale - how to contribute to the narrative of Europe

Hanna from Poland (selection committee organisation) - combine more than one city but who will assess and evaluate the potential impact and thus she is asking for a transparent model while reflecting upon current practice as being good but with difficulties.

Manager from Luxembourg - against regionalisation since the management of a region risks to become unreadable. Furthermore it is important to focus more on the criterion of content with greater emphasis on artistic and cultural issues rather than being used merely as a tool of marketing for the sake of tourism.

Portugal 2012 representative - objectives after 25 years are still correct insofar as emphasis should be given to cultural diversity and therefore to methods by which people are brought together. In short, there is no need to change the strategic purpose of the title. As to the local level, indeed culture can be used to revitalize a city. Thus it would be important to discuss selection criteria and in particular on the partnership element on the basis of their own experience as being a small city of 60 000 and this within an economic crisis. For it means that the one year program is already quite a task and thus it might be better if two cities prepare together one year program and share the costs as much as the resources. Unfortunately otherwise the program shall be local and national rather than European.

Susanne Skipiold - she is in favor of the regional aspect as exemplified by the bid of Ruhr 2010 but adds that the region should not be an artificial entity. If the ECoC is to give substance to such a regional concept then that has to mean to have a real communication process and structures in place. That involves also different partnerships. And as part of this communication process, it has to mean what the title entails for the selected city / region and vice versa how the city / region communicates itself. Right now the title is not so well known throughout Europe. But if the title was already well known, then it would not need so much marketing strategy but instead the city could concentrate much more on its own work.

Russian governor - use cultural identity for competitive advantages not only vis a vis the rest of the world but also in terms of finding a voice besides economists and managers since culture has its own value. Third countries should be legitimate for application to the ECoC title.

(Note: Sucha from the EU Commission advises to support advancement in the Ford Cooperation with Russian Federation)

Researcher - selection model should be changed to get away from the national orientation so while talking about European Capital of Culture, the selection process itself is not very imaginative. As to a possible new selection model, it should not be based in a national context.

Finnish representatives - do not leave out the rural areas which are also places where cultural activities take place

Soul of Europe representative - come back to the selection criterion of cultural diversity and this should be emphasized much more so that the city becomes attractive for both residents and outsiders

Istanbul 2010 - overall objective was a bit too ambitious and then in the implementation process these objectives were not kept and this has to be considered in the approach adopted right at the beginning

Malta - member states decide which cities can be chosen and that allows also the choice of smaller cities so that this method of chosing should be kept to ensure that it happens. And this complements the criterion of 'city and citizens' and if fulfilled can contribute to the sustainability of the city.

EU Commission: awarding of the ECoC title happens under the EU Treaty and therefore this means also upholding the status of the member states

Roland - Wroclaw - one, two or three cities is not enough to come to the European level but to recall the experience in 2000 when there were nine cities which created a net between them, one can think of other selection models with a kind of 'net of cities' applying.

Istanbul representative - favor partnership and sustainability but take into consideration that each city favors something specific e.g. urban governance, yet the terms in use are not very clear when it comes to a term like European identity. Moreover to have long term partnerships then allow this to take place at the level of cultural institutions. A crucial issue is the cultural governance and to come up with a cultural policy which has both integrity and long term perspective.


                  Hans Sakkers from Gemeente Utrecht

3. adaptation process

Rodolfo Maslias - ECoC is a tremendous success story but the European Commission needs to get more involved and organise the networking between the cities

French speaker - Commission should be more facilitating, more supportive rather than be bureaucratic and dictatorial as if cities enter a class room and shall be examined by a teacher

Second French speaker - conjoin the different partners at European level in response to what people want for otherwise the procedure will end up being too bureaucratic

Third French speaker - once the cities have been nominated a close contact with the European Commission is needed for the link should not be reduced to the monitoring process

Greg Richards - there are common themes in all cities and therefore a way of information should be organised so that people can consult that source in order to find out how cities have handled that matter

Trevor Davis - impose a deadline for contracts to be made and that these contracts should be made public as it is an expression of the binding power behind the bid and these people should be included in the monitoring team - it is not about controlling but about developing and controlling

Roland - local level entails also problematic perceptions of culture e.g. local politicians perceive culture as a luxury and hence need EU support to gain independence in shaping the cultural program

Marseille 2013 representative - the first point is that our contacts must not be focused only on DG Culture for the ECoC title includes external relations e.g. Arabic world, but also in linkage to Lisbon strategy a focus on digital developments. Therefore exists the need to involve experts working in those fields. Hence it would be helpful to have a kind of contact point to provide the cities with information as to whom to turn to. The second point is that the teams in the European Capital of Culture are overdemanded by all the complexity and therefore they cannot handle all the things. Consequently the EU Commission should provide some point of entry into making another level of sophistication possible.

Female speaker - what will await us after 2020? Politics is quite unpredictable but in the case of culture things can be predicted in some cases: how are we to protect the arts and culture against instrumentalization and if you turn things into a tool then this is contradictory. We use culture for everything to make possible smart growth and we talk about creativity, but what about also a creative bureaucracy. How EU regulations function is difficult to know but we should speak about one and the same things in terms of our expectations and therefore we should talk about other issues attached to this issue of European Capital of Culture. We use the same terms but I am having increasing doubts if we mean the same thing. We need to work on clarifying terms. That entails as well a need to revisit our methods of governance and how can we address the issues of the future.

Hatto Fischer - add value to what each cities contributes to the institution of European Capitals of Culture. Unfortunately the ECCM network linking former, current and future cities has ceased to exist and right now the Documentation Centre in Athens is closed, so that something else is needed to give orientation and to sustain an ongoing learning process when it comes to implement the ECoC title.

Nostra representative - heed more the need to create synergies

Mary Miller - heed the pool of expertise

EU Commission: it is not possible to provide permanent jobs for those who have become involved in the ECoC saga but the Commission does support 'informal networks'

Former Jury member - a jury which appoints a city to the title is not the same jury which does the monitoring

EU Commission - this is a part of the legal base which cannot be changed until 2020 and the legal base is linked to the EU cultural programming when seeking finances

Schmidt, Ruhr 2010 - there is a danger of corruption and the main task is to protect the artistic teams and here the EU Commission faces one of the biggest challenges and at the same time in answer to Hatto Fischer there is the 'informal network' which provides a platform for exchange of experiences

Marseilles 2013 -ECoC informal network is valuable but it can do little when there is corruption and there is a need to prevent but also to draw consequences.


                     Hans Sakkers from Utrecht

                     and Ainara Martin, Creative Deputy Director of San Sebastian 2016


Further sources of information:

ECOC - European Commission - Europa
The structure of this report follows the structure of the questionnaire: after presenting the profile of ... account. Other under-represented countries include Italy, Poland and the UK. .... of their city having been designated.2 Evaluations of the 2007-09 ECoC have found that they had made ..... competition and a European jury).

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