The successful Czech candidate will share the 2015 title with the Belgian city of Mons.
The three cities of Plzeň, Ostrava and Hradec Králové applied for the Czech nomination after the government had invited interested parties to put their names forward in late 2008.
A thirteen-strong international panel comprising six Czechs and seven representatives of the EU institutions yesterday eliminated the Bohemian city of Hradec Králové from the process, leaving Plzeň – the fourth-largest city in the Czech Republic and famous the world over as the home of pilsner beer – and the Moravian-Silesian city Ostrava – the country's third-largest – competing for the title.
"One Czech and one Belgian town will be appointed European Capital of Culture for 2015. The Belgian town has already been selected - it will be Mons," Culture Ministry press section head Viktorie Plivova told the ČTK agency.
Meanwhile in September, Riga was selected as Latvia's nomination for EU culture capital in 2014 (EurActiv 16/09/09).
The Baltic city of just over 710,000 will share the 2014 title with Swedish city Umeå, which was nominated the week before (EurActiv 11/09/09).
Umeå and Riga must still be formally designated as Europe's 2014 cultural capitals by the EU's Council of Ministers. But the Council's endorsement, expected in May 2010, is considered a procedural formality.
Congratulating Plzeň and Ostrava on their nominations, EU Culture Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič said the European Capital of Culture accolade "provides an opportunity –which must be seized – for the long-term development of the cities concerned, not only in the cultural sphere, but also from the socio-economic and tourism points of view".
"The key to being designated," Šefčovič stressed, "remains the event's European dimension and civic participation," he said, before urging the three cities in contention to "pursue their efforts in this direction".
In May, EU culture ministers confirmed Košice (Slovakia) and Marseille (France) as European culture capitals for 2013 (EurActiv 13/05/09).
The decision on whether to nominate Plzeň or Ostrava will be taken in nine months' time.