European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Opinion by Soul for Europe 2013

ECoC Position Paper No 1

Published on 12th July 2013 by A Soul for Europe

Brussels, March 2013

“A Soul for Europe” (ASfE) strongly welcomes the legislative proposal 2012/0199(COD) – 20/07/2012 to establish a “Union action for the European Capitals of Culture for the years 2020 to 2033” by the European Commission (EC).

“A Soul for Europe” (ASfE) congratulates the European Commission for the content of the proposal and is pleased to see that many of the ASfE proposals provided over the last two years of dialogue with institutions and civil society have been included in the legislative proposal.

Nevertheless, on the basis of several years of ASfE continuous consultation with civil society, experts and European Capitals of Culture operators, ASfE asks for further attention on specific issues and further proposes amendments to these key issues for the improvement of the European Capitals of Culture Action 2020 - 2030.


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“A Soul for Europe” (ASfE) proposes the following amendments:

  1. New and appropriately so is the opening of art. 3,3: “Cities in candidate and potential candidate countries shall also have the possibility to apply for the European Capital of Culture title in the framework of an open competition organized every third year.” ASfE supports this inclusion as well the proposed three year cycle. This option is an added value for the program ECoC. Furthermore, culture can, through such events in candidate countries, underline its forerunner position in opening the European Union to new members and foster strong partnerships through culture. It is as well a precise and imaginative proposal which will contribute to the debate about the cultural component of the EU external affairs.

  2. The proposal states “Cities may involve their surrounding regions” (art 4,1). ASfE wholly supports this new interpretation of the geographical understanding of a “cultural capital”. “Cities and regions” and their European responsibilities are a key item in the ASfE agenda. Therefore, we propose that the specification “the applications shall be made under the name of the leading city and, if selected, the title will be awarded to this city.” (art 4,1) will be applied in a very flexible way.

  3. To article 4, 3, “program shall last one year” ASfE proposes to add “the program shall last no longer than one year” as well as “the year of the title”. It is indeed relevant to limit the size of the cultural program for the “year of the title”, to create a more balanced context. On one hand, to reduce the number of events to a reasonable program in order to avoid to overtire the city, audiences, and organizers and, on the other hand, to ensure the means for a more intense program the years before and after are deployed. Therefore, the condition to present the ECoC within the year of the tile must not hamper its long term process and goals.

  4. The specification “a cultural programme… shall be created specifically for the ECoC title” might open unnecessary discussions. A number of the cultural activities part of the program will be activities already existing in the city and the region also when there was no ECoC. ASfE, therefore, proposes to change the word “created” in the word “presented”.

  5. ASfE is very glad about the clear position in the “long-term strategy” criteria for “the plans to strengthen the capacity of the cultural sector” (art 5,1 (b)) instead of “cultural and creative sector” and strongly supports it. The program of an ECoC itself might partly result in a “cultural and creative industry” effect. But this must not be the condition nor must be a criterion.

  6. ASfE believes that the “capacity to deliver” (art. 5,2) is an essential criterion as well. In the proposed text, however, this capacity is limited to “the broad political support” and the “adequate and viable infrastructure”. ASfE is convinced that experience, sufficient skills and intellectual capacity are needed and should be integrated as one of the criterion in art 5,2.

  7. Within the “cultural and artistic content” criteria, it is of course necessary for the city to have “the capacity to combine local cultural heritage and traditional art forms with new, innovative and experimental cultural expressions.” (art 5,3 (d)). However, the “local” can be combined with “global” as well. ASfE therefore proposes to include the combination “local and global” in art 5,3 (d).

  8. The “European dimension” as criteria is included in article 5,4. Too often the long term strategy forgets the European dimension, the cultural field in the cities returns very easily to the actions within the familiar and reliable context. ASfE, therefore, proposes to add a line 4 (f) stressing “the inclusion of a plan to increase the cultural force of Europe on a long term scale”

  9. ASfE applauds the clear integration of the “outreach” paragraph in the “criteria”. (art. 5, 5). This complies with the ASfE firm requirement for a clear and mandatory commitment of the cities to involve civil society in the planning and in the programme.

  10. The “management” criterion: “budget shall cover the preparation phase, the year of the title in itself and provisions for the legacy activities.” (art 5,6 (a) ) is unclear. It raises many questions: For what use is the “provision”? Which period has to be covered? What kind of costs? What are precisely the “(possible) legacy activities”? There is a logic for the city having the responsibility for the legacy activities with and their partners above the responsibility for taking care for the ECoC within the criteria mentioned in the program. Therefore, ASfE proposes to delete: “provisions for the legacy activities, and proposes to consider adding these appropriate concerns in art 4,3. The last sentence of art 4,3 states “It must however be embedded in a long term strategy for cultural development in the city.” The sentence can be concluded with “including the concrete engagement for the legacy activities”.

  11. An extremely important criterion in the “management” category is the “the appointment procedure of the artistic director and his/her field of action” (art 5,6 (c)). The criterion is incomplete. ASfE proposes to amend it as follows: “the general manager and the artistic director”. Both functions might be executed by one person at the same time. The criterion refers to the direction of the project and their independently governance radius, general manager and artistic director are often separate functions with separate duties. Therefore it’s necessary to know the appointment procedure of both.

  12. “The European panel shall consist of 10 members. They shall be citizens of the Union.” (art 6, 2): is very clear and precise. Nothing has to be added. The idea of having a European Jury, with no members from the given country sounds much safer for the accuracy of the process. There is no need to stipulate to extend this group with a number of “national experts”. ASfE supports the European Commission explicitly in this proposal. ASfE urges, especially the Member States, not to amend this clear proposal.

  13. The European Commission proposal states: “The Commission shall pre-select a pool of potential panel members following the organization of a call for expression of interest. The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission shall subsequently select three experts each from this pool and appoint them in accordance with their respective procedures. The Committee of the Regions shall select one expert and appoint him/her in accordance with its procedures.” (art 6,2), ASfE is convinced that the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the Committee of the Regions must have the possibility to add as well “potential panel members” to the pool. ASfE, therefore, proposes to add these institutions to art 6, 2. A possible suggested text could be: “The European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission shall be invited to respond at the “call for expression of interest” with their potential candidate panel members. The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission shall subsequently select three”.

  14. ASfE proposes that it should not be allowed that members of the European Panel provide – paid and non-paid, formal and informal - consultancy to candidate cities that they are evaluating. This condition probably should not be mentioned in this legislation, not in article 6 nor in any other article. It can be part of the conditions to the appointment procedure of the panel members. If this results problematic or unclear the proposed mandatory condition must be added in art 6.

  15. Art 9,1 requires that once a city is chosen for the short list, it “shall complete their applications”. ASfE proposes that it must be possible for those cities “to complete and revise their application”. Both aspects are essential. It is evident that it is not realistic for the long list candidates to present a detailed program in the applications nor an outlined organizational structure, nor a promotion campaign, presentation quality, etc. The timing from preparation of the candidacy to the ECoC year is too long to allow cities to be precise at the beginning of the bidding process. Arts and culture events and programming are tightly tied to the moment in time. Furthermore, the jury will ask for certain aspect to be developed. So both actions - “complete and revise” - are necessary. ASfE proposes that extra attention has to be given to the fear for the effect that fierce competition between the cities in the candidacy period has on the overall atmosphere of the cultural sector in the country. ASfE suggests therefore that certain rules or recommendations should be included to encourage applicant cities to include in their program design mechanisms of inclusion and cooperation with the cultural sector in the given country. ASfE proposes also recommendations towards Member States for a commitment to still allocate some funds to the continuation/implementation of a few projects in the cities that are not awarded the title.

  16. ASfE is firmly convinced that it must be very clear that only the European Panel can give “a recommendation for the nomination of one city in the Member State concerned as European Capital of Culture. However, if none of the candidate cities fulfill the criteria, the European panel may recommend not to award the title” as comprehensibly proposed by the EC in art.9,4. ASfE is firmly convinced that it is of fundamental importance that no other institution or individual shall be entitled to make recommendations: not the Member State concerned, nor the EP, nor the EC, nor the Council, nor any other body or individual.

  17. As underlined already in 1, ASfE considers the inclusion of an ECoC from “candidate and potential candidate countries” every three years an important added value. The restriction mentioned in art 10,2: “every city shall only be allowed to participate in one competition” is not necessary. ASfE propose to delete this part of the sentence. A city can grow in its cultural competences. Certainly in the context of a program that runs from 2020 to 2033. 14 years is a very long period of time, almost one generation. The designation for the Olympics can be a good example to compare with: Beijing was not elected candidate for 2004, it repeated their candidacy and was successful designated for 2008. And there are more examples. It is evident, for the “candidate and potential candidate countries”, the same conditions and criteria are used as for the ECoC's in the member states. ASfE proposes to amend art 10,2 replacing “be allowed to participate” with “be awarded the title once during the programme period 2020 - 2033”.

  18. Although ASfE considers the EC as a strong, decisive and conclusive European body it cannot be that “the Commission shall, by means of implementing acts, officially designate the European Capitals of Culture” (art 11). ASfE proposes that this duty remains the prerogative of the Council of the European Union. The procedure steps are: recommendations, nomination and designation. It is very important that the recommendation only can be made by the European Panel; the nomination – if needed – can be made by the EC and the designation by the Council. ASfE firmly proposes that no member state concerned can have responsibility in any of the phases of the process.

  19. Almost every attempt of the ECoC cities to link their cultural program to previous ECoC's programme remains, if it happens, artificial. Therefore, there is no need to ask the designated cities for co-operation and to “seek to develop links” (art 12,1). ASfE proposes that links should instead only be “welcomed”.

  20. The financial support of the EU for the ECoC is only a fraction of the overall budget. Nevertheless it is an important input for the making of the year. It cannot be a workable reality that an ECOC city does not know before the start of the year if the Melina Mercouri prize is awarded entirely (art 14, 2).At the conclusion of the third monitoring meeting between the European panel and the designated city “two months before the beginning of the year” (art 13,2) the decision for the assignment of the entire amount of the Melina Mercouri prize has to be declared subsequently and immediately (so two months before the beginning of the year). For good reasons the EC demands a transparent and a balanced budgetary practice. ASfE stresses that this is not possible when the ECoC is placed in the situation that an important income confirmation is given far too late. ASfE therefore proposes a revision and anticipation of the time framework for the assignment of the Melina Mercuri Prize.

  21. Finally, ASfE underlines the need to include: “cooperation with the local civil society” clearly in the monitoring and the periodical analysis (article 13) as well as in the evaluation (article 16).


“A Soul for Europe” (ASfE) strongly welcomes the legislative proposal to establish a “Union action for the European Capitals of Culture for the years 2020 to 2033” by the European Commission (EC).

The legislative proposal is based on lessons learned from experience and has strong conclusions from various organized consultations and reflections with the cultural field and other stakeholders in Europe.

Nevertheless, ASfE identifies in the proposal a number of significant and ostensibly small issues that needs rectifications. ASfE has presented them clearly in this position paper and hopes very much for a final legislative text for the 2020 -2033 program which will endorse the ASfE recommendations.

“A Soul for Europe” is also offering to further discuss the legislative proposal in the ongoing debate among Member States, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament as well as in the European public space.

For further information contact the “A Soul for Europe” Brussels office.


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