Košice, Marseille confirmed as EU cultural capitals

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). 


Expressing his "delight" with the Council's decision, EU Culture Commissioner Jan Figel' congratulated the four cities on their designation as European capitals of culture and hailed the process of their selection. 

"I am pleased that the new selection procedure, which resulted in the designation of the 2012 capitals, generated vigorous competition and a lot of public interest, which is reflected in the great number of cities applying, and the high quality of their bids for the title," Figel' said. 


The title of 'European Capital of Culture' was created by the EU in 1985. Capitals are chosen by an international panel of thirteen members, six of whom are appointed by the country concerned and seven by the EU institutions. While the final decision rests with the Council, their endorsement of the panel's decision is considered a formality. 

Candidates must fulfil three main criteria: integrating a true European dimension, reinforcing cooperation among EU countries with the support of the public and highlighting the role of the city in the formation and development of culture in Europe. 

The upcoming capitals of culture are: 

  • 2010: Essen (Germany), Istanbul (Turkey) and Pécs (Hungary) 
  • 2011: Turku (Finland) and Tallinn (Estonia) 
  • 2012: Guimarães (Portugal) and Maribor (Slovenia) 
  • 2013 : Marseille (France) and Košice (Slovakia) 

For the years to follow, the countries have been finalised, but it has not yet been decided which cities will compete for the title: 

  • 2014: Sweden and Latvia 
  • 2015: Belgium and Czech Republic 
  • 2016: Spain and Poland 
  • 2017: Denmark and Cyprus 
  • 2018: Netherlands and Malta 
  • 2019: Italy and Bulgaria 


  • 2012: Guimarães (Portugal) and Maribor (Slovenia) to be EU capitals of culture. 
  • 2013: Marseille-Provence (France) and Košice (Slovakia) to follow suit. 

Further Reading