EU culture ministers meeting in Brussels yesterday (12 May) endorsed Košice (Slovakia) and Marseille-Provence (France) as European capitals of culture for 2013. The ministers also rubber-stamped the selection of Guimarães (Portugal) and Maribor (Slovenia) for 2012.

Yesterday's formal designation for 2013 was a procedural formality after the cities had been selected by a panel of international jurors and endorsed by the European Commission last year. 

The French Mediterranean port of Marseille, which fought off competition from Lyon, Bordeaux and Toulouse, will seek to highlight its role as Europe's 'southern anchor' during the year (EurActiv 17/09/08), while Košice becomes the first Slovakian city to play host to a European cultural capital (EurActiv 11/09/08). 

The 'Marseille-Provence' designation takes in 130 towns and villages in the south of France. 

Congratulating the four cities, EU Culture Commissioner Ján Figel' said the title of European capital of culture "creates an enormous potential for local development". 

"This title has a long-standing and excellent reputation, and to bear the title for a full year puts a city firmly in the spotlight," Figel' added. 

The Commission was quick to stress that the Council's endorsement was "only the beginning" of the process. The "extremely challenging scale" of hosting a cultural capital would require "several years of preparations," it said, while a commitment by governments and municipalities to fund the year would be the "decisive" factor for its eventual success. 

This year's capitals of culture are the Austrian city of Linz and Lithuanian capital Vilnius (EurActiv 10/12/08).