Preparing a European Capital of Culture can be an opportunity for the city to generate considerable cultural, social and economic benefits and it can help foster urban regeneration, change the city's image and raise its visibility and profile on an international scale.
In 1985, Melina Mercouri, Greece’s minister of culture, and her French counterpart Jack Lang came up with the idea of designating an annual Capital of Culture to bring Europeans closer together by highlighting the richness and diversity of European cultures and raising awareness of their common history and values.
The Commission of the European Union manages the title and each year the Council of Ministers of the European Union formally designates European Capitals of Culture: more than 40 cities have been designated so far.
An international panel of cultural experts is in charge of assessing the proposals of cities for the title according to criteria specified by the European Union.
For two of the capitals each year, eligibility is open to cities in EU member states only. From 2021 and every three years thereafter, a third capital will been chosen from cities in countries that are candidates or potential candidates for membership, or in countries that are part of the European Economic Area (EEA)– an example of the latter being Stavanger in Norway, which was a European Capital of Culture in 2008.