The European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou congratulated the two winning cities and declared that “this flagship cultural initiative is a unique opportunity to reap enormous cultural, social and economic benefits, as well as to raise the international visibility and profile of the cities and of the Member States themselves”.
Vassiliou, before the European Council proceeded to the official designation, also warned that “the formal designation is not in itself a guarantee of success. It is in fact the beginning of a long and challenging but eventually very rewarding process” and encouraged to “make the event a part of a longer term strategy for the culture-led development of the city”. The Commissioner also stressed, as one of the keys to success, the unwavering commitment of the public authorities during the preparatory phase.
This entire year event is very challenging and it is natural that many European Capitals of Culture face difficulties in particular at the beginning. To help them into the process there is now an advisory and monitoring process to support and help the cities during the preparatory phase.
The European Capitals of Culture initiative was launched in 1985 in order to highlight in particular the richness and diversity of European cultures, celebrate the cultural ties that link Europeans together and promote mutual understanding between people from different European countries. Since then, over 40 cities have been designated and until 2019 cities from two member states will be designated each year as European capitals of culture. This year capitals are Guimarães (Portugal) and Maribor (Slovenia). The Commission is expected to present in July 2012 a proposal on a new framework for the European Capitals of Culture programme from 2020 onwards.