European capital of culture: "a catalyst for economic growth"
The role of creative cities in reaching the EU 2020 goals of “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” was highlighted by Commission President José Manuel Barroso during a conference and exhibition held on 24 March in honour of the European capital of culture's 25th anniversary.
The event attracted over 400 representatives of past, present and future EU cultural capitals and aimed at assessing the successes and impacts of the European capital of culture initiative since its launch in 1985.
EU Commissioner for culture and education, Androulla Vassiliou, who also attended the anniversary event, indicated that “the potential economic and social benefits [which the initiative] can bring to cities and regions make it a truly remarkable endeavour.”
According to the European Commission, 80% of the cities having received the title of European capital of culture between 1995 and 2004 felt that this opportunity had been the most valuable cultural event their city had experienced as it notably helped contribute to the stimulation of local development.“The title of European capital of culture creates wealth and jobs directly and indirectly in the cities concerned,” said the European Commission president. Moreover, the initiative is seen as a way to enhance the standing and the prestige of cities in the eyes of the general public and media. It is also, according to Barroso, a factor of social inclusion.
The first city to ever hold the title of European capital of culture was Athens in 1985. In 25 years, another 42 European cities have followed suit. Three criteria must be respected for a city to be selected: a European dimension, the exchange of good practices between European citizens and a highlighting of wealth and diversity of European culture. This year's European capitals of culture are Essen for the Ruhr (Germany), Istanbul (Turkey) and Pécs (Hungary).