Rijeka (pictured) and Galway were supposed to be the European capitals of culture in 2020 – Photo: Wikipedia

European Capitals of Culture shake-up

Cancelled: please come back next year

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed many victims so far, individual and organisational, and of the latter the lockdowns would have particularly hurt in Croatia’s Rijeka and Ireland’s Galway, where after years of planning and anticipation, their time in the spotlight as European Capitals of Culture for 2020 was wrecked.
26. January 2021 14:52

The European Capitals of Culture initiative was developed in 1985 and thus would have been celebrating a 35th anniversary in 2020. To date, the title has been awarded to more than 50 cities across the European Union. For the first time there are no 2021 European Capitals of Culture, due to COVID-19, and it can be scarce compensation for Rijeka and Galway that their shattered year has been extended until April 30, 2021.

As well, the European Commission presented a proposal to the European Parliament and to the Council that would postpone the year in which Novi Sad (Serbia) is due to host a European Capital of Culture from 2021 to 2022 and the year in which Timisoara (Romania) and Elefsina (Greece) will hold the title from 2021 to 2023. This proposal was formally adopted by the Parliament and the Council on December 23, 2020.

Thus the capitals designated until 2025 are:

  • 2021 –
  • 2022 – Kaunas (Lithuania), Esch (Luxembourg) and Novi Sad (Serbia, candidate country)
  • 2023 – Veszprém (Hungary), Timișoara (Romania) and Elefsina (Greece)
  • 2024 – Tartu (Estonia), Bodø (Norway, EFTA/EEA country) and Bad Ischl (Austria)
  • 2025 – Chemnitz (Germany) and Nova Gorica (Slovenia, recommended)

As reported last week, the towns of Veszprém and Balatonfured in western Hungary are planning to host joint events in 2023, according to Tibor Navracsics, the government commissioner responsible for the event.

Navracsics said the two towns had hosted a successful film picnic in 2020 and they planned to expand the event in 2023 and hold a film festival alongside it. He said centuries-old good relations and a strong bond between the towns are a good starting point for the cooperation.

Balatonfured mayor István Boka said it is hoped that new programmes from 2023 can continue in the following years, taking advantage of the necessary infrastructure developments.

The European Capitals of Culture years are shared around. Six years before the title-year the selected host member states publish a call for applications, usually through their Ministry for Culture. Cities and towns interested in participating in the competition must submit a proposal for consideration.

European Capitals of Culture are formally designated four years before the actual year. This long period is necessary for the planning and preparation of such a complex event. The initiative is designed to highlight the richness and diversity of cultures in Europe, celebrate the cultural features Europeans share, increase European citizens’ sense of belonging to a common cultural area and foster the contribution of culture to the development of cities.

In addition, experience has shown that the event is an excellent opportunity for regenerating cities and towns, raising their international profile, enhancing their image in the eyes of their own inhabitants, breathing new life into their culture and boosting tourism.

In 2026, Finland and Slovakia will both host a European Capital of Culture. They started their competitions in April and December 2019 respectively.

In Finland, three cities were pre-selected in June 2020: Oulu, Savonlinna and Tampere. The final selection will be in June 2021.

In Slovakia, the pre-selection meeting will take place in February 2021 and the final selection is planned in December 2021.

Latvia and Portugal will both host a European Capital of Culture in 2027. Latvia published its call in August 2020 and will have its pre-selection meeting in July 2021. Portugal published its call in November 2020 and will have its pre-selection meeting in early 2022.

Since Hungary joined the European Union in 2004, Pécs has held the event, in 2010.

Leave a Reply