Throughout history, Europe has been a hub of artistic development of exceptional richness and great diversity where European cities have played a vital role in the formation and spread of culture.
The European Capital of Culture action is an initiative of the European Union governed by Decision No 445/2014/EU for the titles 2020 to 2033, which aims at highlighting this richness and diversity as well as common cultural aspects in Europe with a view to contributing to bring the peoples of Europe closer together and improve mutual understanding. This Decision was amended by Decision (EU) 2017/1545 to open the action, subject to conditions, to cities from European Free Trade Association countries which are parties to the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EFTA/EEA countries).
Against this backdrop, the general objectives of the European Capital of Culture action have been defined as follows: to safeguard and promote the diversity of cultures in Europe and to highlight the common features they share as well as to increase citizens' sense of belonging to a common cultural area, on the one hand, and to foster the contribution of culture to the long-term development of cities at economic, social and urban level, in accordance with their respective strategies and priorities, on the other hand.
In line with these objectives, activities developped by the city that will be designated as European Capital of Culture will strive to enhance the range, diversity and European dimension of its cultural offering, including through transnational co-operation; to widen access to and participation in culture; to strengthen the capacity of its cultural sector and the links of the latter with other sectors and to raise its international profile through culture.
In accordance with the calendar set out in the Annex of Decision No 445/2014/EU as amended by Decision (EU) 2017/1545, the title of European Capital of Culture shall be awarded in 2024 to one city in Estonia, to one city in Austria and to one city in an EFTA/EEA country, a candidate country or a potential candidate to EU membership.
The aim of this call is:
to trigger applications from cities in EFTA/EEA countries, candidate countries and potential candidates participating in the Creative Europe Programme, which wish to bid for the "European Capital of Culture" title for the year 2024 and
to lead to the designation of one of these cities as European Capital of Culture 2024, that may be awarded the Melina Mercouri prize (funded from the respective Union programme supporting culture at the time of its award).
To assist cities in the preparation of their bid, this call provides an overview of the criteria that will be applied for the assessment of their applications, in accordance with the criteria set out in Decision No 445/2014/EU, as well as information about the selection procedure. In annex 1, cities will also find the application form they have to complete in order to submit an application.
The Managing Authority in charge of the selection procedure for the 2024 European Capital of Culture title for cities from EFTA/EEA countries, candidates counties and potential candidates is the "Culture and Creativity" Directorate within the Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture of the European Commission (herafter the "Culture and Creativity Directorate of the European Commission") .
Further details on the European Capital of Culture action may be obtained from the following webpage of the European Commission: http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/creative-europe/actions/capitals-culture_en.htm.
Outcome of the selection process
The outcome of the selection process of the European Capital of Culture Union action is twofold:
The award of the title of European Capital of Culture;
The award of a pecuniary prize of 1.5 M€ in honour of Melina Mercouri to the designated city from one the EFTA/EEA countries, candidate countries or potential candidates listed in section 2.a.
To that extent, this call for submission of applications is also to be seen as the rules of the contest for the awarding of the Melina Mercouri prize.
The title and the prize are awarded on the basis of the same criteria detailed in section 2. The payment of the prize occurs in the course of the title-year and is conditioned and ruled by the requirements laid down in section 5 of this document.
Criteria for designating a city for the title of European Capital of Culture and awarding the Melina Mercouri prize
This call for submission of applications is exclusively addressed to the cities wishing to apply for the title of European Capital of Culture 2024 from the following EFTA/EEA countries, candidate countries or potential candidates:
Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,
Montenegro (except the city of Herceg Novi, as the city already submitted an application for the competition for the 2021 ECOC title),
The title applies to a city. Cities may involve their surrounding areas if they wish so, but the title is awarded only to the city itself and not to the whole area. Therefore, where a city involves its surrounding area, the application shall be made under the name of the city.
Every application must be based on a cultural programme with a strong European dimension. The cultural programme shall cover the year of the European Capital of Culture title and shall be created specifically for the title.
For recollection, in case of claim relating to the activities carried out in the framework of the submission for applications the sole liability of applicants can be invoked.
Formal criteria of the application:
All candidate cities shall fill in the common application form laid down in annex 1. Candidate cities should note that there are different questionnaires for preselection and selection.
Candidate cities are invited to comply with the following formal requirements when drafting their application. Applications which do not follow these requirements at pre-selection or final selection stages will be considered ineligible and not examined further:
The candidate cities shall communicate in writing to the Managing Authority their intention to submit an application at the latest one month before the deadline specified in section 4 below "Submission of applications".
The application shall be written in English.
Candidate cities shall answer all the questions listed in Annex I.
For the pre-selection stage, the applications shall not exceed 60 pages in A4 format. For the final selection stage, the applications shall not exceed 100 pages in A4 format. Applicants may include illustrations, graphics or any other visual elements (such as logos), but these are included as part of the page limit.
For the pre-selection stage, applications shall be sent in paper and electronic formats within the deadline indicated under section 4 below "Submission of applications". For the final selection stage, applications shall be sent in paper and electronic formats within the deadline that will be indicated by the "Culture and Creativity" Directorate of the European Commission to the shortlisted cities after completion of the pre-selection stage.
In accordance with Article 3, paragraph 4, subparagraph 2, of Decision No 445/2014/EU as amended by Article 1 of Decision (EU) 2017/1545, cities in EFTA/EEA countries, in candidate countries and in potential candidates shall only be allowed to participate in one competition during the period from 2020 to 2033. Accordingly, the city of Herceg Novi (Montenegro) (candidate city in the competition for the title for 2021) cannot participate in the competition.
In accordance with Article 3, paragraph 4, subparagraph 3, of Decision No 445/2014/EU as amended by Article 1 of Decision (EU) 2017/1545, each EFTA/EEA country, candidate country or potential candidate shall only be allowed to host the title once during the period from 2020 to 2033. Accordingly, Serbia cannot host the title in 2024 and cities from Serbia cannot participate in the competition as the city of Novi Sad (Serbia) is nominated as European Capital of Culture for 2021.
The other mandatory conditions regarding the participation of EFTA/EEA countries candidate countries and potential candidates are stipulated further in Article 3, paragraph 5, of Decision No 445/2014/EU.
Candidate cities must sign a declaration on their honour certifying that they are not in one of the situations referred to in Article 106(1) and Articles 107, 108 and 109 of the Financial Regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Union, filling in the relevant form attached in annex 2.
The award criteria for the assessment of the applications are divided into six categories corresponding to the provisions laid down in Article 5 of Decision No 445/2014/EU and all six categories have the same weighting:
1. Contribution to the long-term strategy
2. European dimension
3. Cultural and artistic content
4. Capacity to deliver
As regards the "contribution to the long-term strategy", the following factors shall be taken into account:
As regards the "European dimension", the following factors shall be taken into account:
As regards the "cultural and artistic content", the following factors shall be taken into account:
As regards the "capacity to deliver", the following factors shall be taken into account:
As regards "outreach", the following factors shall be taken into account:
As regards "management", the following factors shall be taken into account:
These criteria are explained and illustrated by examples in the Guide for candidate cities, available at the following website of the European Commission
Procedure for the designation of one city as European Capital of Culture and the award of the Melina Mercouri prize
The panel of experts
A panel of independent experts ("the panel") shall be established to carry out the selection and monitoring procedures.
The role of the panel is to assess the applications received from candidate cities, agree on a list of pre-selected cities as well as recommend one city for being awarded with the title of European Capital of Culture and the Melina Mercouri prize. At the end of the monitoring phase, it is also the role of the panel to issue a report which will be the basis for the Commission's decision to pay or not the Melina Mercury prize to the city.
The panel will consist of 10 members.
For the purpose of the pre-selection and selection stages, these ten members will be experts appointed by the Union institutions and bodies, i.e. European Parliament, Council, Commission and Committee of the Regions.
The same experts shall be appointed by the authorising officer of the Commission so as to give a recommendation about the award of the Melina Mercouri prize.
In accordance with Article 6 of Decision No 445/2014/EU, the experts shall be citizens of the Union, shall be independent, have no actual or potential conflict of interest in respect of a specific candidate city and have substantial experience and expertise in the cultural sector, in the cultural development of cities or in the organisation of a European Capital of Culture or an international cultural event of similar scope and scale.
Phases of the procedure
The procedure for designating one city as European Capital of Culture is broken down as follows:
b.1 The selection phase:
The selection phase is made of two different stages:
Cities wishing to apply will send their application to the "Culture and Creativity" Directorate of the European Commission within the deadline set below. The "Culture and Creativity" Directorate of the European Commission will convene a pre-selection meeting with the Panel on a date that will be specified later on its website. Candidate cities won't be invited to this meeting.
The panel shall assess each candidate city on the basis of its application against the objectives of the European Capital of Culture action and the criteria as specified above.
After this meeting, the panel will agree on a shortlist of candidate cities which shall be invited to revise and complete their application during the final selection stage. It shall issue a pre-selection report containing a general assessment of all the applications, the short-list of candidate cities which are to be considered further as well as recommendations to these cities.
The Commission shall then formally approve the short-list based on the report of the panel and send a letter to short-listed candidate cities inviting them to complete and revise their applications and indicating the deadline for submitting such applications.
Final selection stage
The short-listed candidate cities will complete and revise their applications with a view to complying with the award criteria as well as taking into account the recommendations contained in the pre-selection report. Each pre-selected city will send its revised application to the "Culture and Creativity" Directorate of the European Commission in due time.
The "Culture and Creativity" Directorate of the European Commission will organise a selection meeting on a date that will be specified later on its website inviting all short-listed cities to send a delegation for a hearing with the panel. This meeting will take place no later than nine months after the pre-selection meeting but, where necessary, the Commission may extend that nine-month deadline for a reasonable period.
The panel shall assess each short-listed candidate city on the basis of its revised application and hearing against the objectives of the European Capital of Culture action and the criteria as specified above.
After this meeting, the panel shall agree on the recommendation of a maximum of one city for the title. If none of the candidate cities fulfil all the criteria, the panel may recommend not to award the title.
The panel shall issue a selection report containing a general assessment of all the applications and a justified recommendation for the designation of one city for the title. The report shall also contain recommendations to the city concerned regarding the progress to be made by the year of the title.
b.2 The designation of the city as European Capital of Culture and the award of the Melina Mercouri prize
On the basis of the recommendation of the panel, the European Commission shall designate one city to hold the title for the 2024 European Capital of Culture in an EFTA/EEA country, a candidate country or a potential candidate and shall notify the European Parliament, the Council and the Committee of the Regions of that designation no later than four years before the title-year.
At the same time it recommends a city for the title, the panel will also recommend the authorising officer of the Commission to award the Melina Mercouri prize to this city.
Once the city has been officially designated, the authorising officer of Commission, upon this recommendation, may award it the Melina Mercouri prize which amounts to € 1.500.000.
Submission of applications
The cities in eligible EFTA/EEA countries, candidate countries or potential candidates wishing to apply for the European Capital of Culture title in 2024 shall reply to this call by filling in the application form in annex 1 as well as the "declaration of honour" form in annex 2.
As mentioned in section 2 under a) above, there are two questionnaires: one for the pre-selection stage and one more developed for the final selection stage.
Twenty paper copies and one electronic version of each application in English must be sent to the following postal address and e-mail address no later than 10 October 2018:
Directorate Culture and Creativity
Creative Europe Programme - Culture
J 70 1/234
1049 Brussels, Belgium
The candidate cities shall communicate in writing their intention to submit an application at the latest on 10 September 2018.
Applicants will be informed by of the receipt of their application within 15 working days.
By submitting an application, cities accept that their e-application at both pre-selection and selection stages be made public on the website of the European Commission: http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/creative-europe/actions/capitals-culture_en.htm at the end of the selection phase.
For formal requirements please refer to section 2 under a) of the call.
Monitoring and payment of the Melina Mercouri prize
The Melina Mercouri Prize is awarded in connection with the designation of one city as European Capital of Culture. However, its payment will occur no later than the end of March 2024 provided that the city designated continues to honour the commitments it made at the application stage, still complies with the criteria stipulated in the call and takes into account the recommendations contained in the selection and monitoring reports of the panel.
The commitments made at the application stage shall deemed to have been honoured by the designated city where no substantial change has been made to the programme and the strategy between the application stage and the year of the title, in particular where:
the budget has been maintained at a level capable of delivering a high-quality cultural programme in line with the application and the criteria;
the independence of the artistic team has been appropriately respected;
the European dimension has remained sufficiently strong in the final version of the cultural programme;
the marketing and communication strategy and the communication material used by the designated city clearly reflect the fact that the European Capitals of Culture is an action of the Union;
the plans for the monitoring and evaluation of the impact of the title on the city are in place.
Compliance with these requirements will be assessed by the Commission on the basis of a recommendation made by a panel of independent experts at the end of the monitoring phase, which runs from the designation of the city as European Capital of Culture up to the beginning of the year of the title.
Similarly to the selection process, the monitoring phase is carried out by the panel. The Commission will convene three monitoring meetings between the panel and the designated city in order for the panel to take stock of the preparations for the event and give advice with a view to helping the city to develop a high-quality cultural programme and an effective strategy. After the third meeting, the panel will issue a report which will be the basis for the Commission's decision to pay or not the Melina Mercouri prize to the city. Please note that the payment of the prize is therefore not automatic.
Once the authorising officer of the Commission has issued the decision regarding the award of the prize, the city accepts that checks and audits by the Commission, OLAF and the Court of Auditors can be carried out.
Regarding the award and payment of the prize, the Law of the Union applies. The competent court or arbitration tribunal to hear disputes is the General Court of the Court of Justice of the European Union:
Rue du Fort Niedergrünewald
tel.: (352) 4303-1 Fax: (352) 4303 2100
Financial or administrative penalties, or both, may be imposed on applicants who have made false declarations, or committed irregularities or fraud, in accordance with the conditions laid down in Article 145 of the abovementioned Financial Regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Union and in proportion to the value of the Melina Mercouri prize.
Once the title year ends, the city awarded the title of European Capital of Culture will have to produce an evaluation report using the common guidelines and indicators established by the Commission and transmit it to the European Commission by 31 December of 2025 in accordance with Article 16 of Decision No 445/2014/EU.
Information on the European Capital of Culture action can be consulted on the website of the European Commission at the following address: http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/creative-europe/actions/capitals-culture_en.htm.
Candidate cities are advised to read the guide for cities applying for the title of European Capital of Culture, which is available at the same address.
Cities interested in the title can obtain further information from the "Culture and Creativity" Directorate of the European Commission at the following address:
Directorate Culture and Creativity
Creative Europe Programme - Culture
J 70 1/234
1049 Brussels, Belgium
The Rules of procedure, specifying in particular the name of the managing authority responsible for organising and managing the competition, the competition arrangements as well as the rules for the pre-selection and selection meetings, including the language regime and the organisation of the candidate cities' hearings, will be available on the website of the European Commission in the coming weeks.