Община Варна - култура и изкуство
Candidature of Varna for European Capital of Culture
It was launched on 13 June 1985 by the Greek minister of culture, the famous actress and singer, Melina Mercouri. Initially, the initiative was called European City of Culture in a special motion of the Council of Ministers of the Union.

The official document stated that the European City of Culture was to present a culture which in its historical roots and contemporary development was characterized both by common elements and a heritage which had been due to differences.


Bulgaria’s European Capital of Culture

In 2019, a Bulgarian city and a Italian city will be the European Capitals of Culture. The designation procedures are described in Decision No 1622 of 24 October 2006 by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

The applications are assessed by a special commission of 13 members. Seven of them are from European institutions and six are appointed by the applicant-country.

The assessment criteria for the cultural programme are divided into two categories: European Dimensions and City and Citizens. The European Dimension encourages cooperation between people of culture and art and the cities of the respective member State and other countries in all fields of culture. The second criterion requires that the wealth of European diversity should be emphasized and appreciate. The programme should also highlight the common aspects of the European cultures.The City and Citizens criterion requires that the programme should involve the citizens of the designated city and the region and encourage their interest in the event, as well as the interests of foreigners. The results are expected to have a durable and sustainable effect on the city’s development.

The Monitoring and Advisory Panel has an important place in the process of actions, concerning the European Capital of Culture initiative. It observes the execution of the goals and the keeping of criteria, and supports the work of the designated city from the moment of the designation to the beginning of the event. The Monitoring and Advisory Panel has seven experts chosen by the European Parliament, Council, Commission and the Commission of regions. The interested member states can also nominate a member for this Commission who will be an observer. The designated cities regularly send reports to the panel.

In 2010, the Melina Mercouri Prize was established. It will be granted to the new European Capitals of Culture. The prize amounts to 1.5 million euros and replace the subsidy given until 2010.

The timeline of the actions, related to the candidature of Bulgaria and Italy, is given below:

Timeline Stage in the procedure Body Responsible
31 December 2012
30 June 2013
Call for application Government of Bulgaria Government of Italy
1 July – 31 October 2013  Deadline for responding to the call for application Candidate cities
1 November - 31 December 2013 Meeting of the panel for pre-selection Government of Bulgaria Government of Italy
1 June – 30 September 2014 Meeting of the panel for the final selection Government of Bulgaria
Government of Italy
31 December 2014 Announcing the winner Government of Bulgaria
Government of Italy
31 March 2015 Voting in the European Parliament European Parliament
  Designating the European Capital of Culture Council of EU
31 December 2016 First meeting of the Monitoring and Advisory Panel Government of Bulgaria
Government of Italy
31 January 2018 Secong meeting of the Monitoring and Advisory Panel Government of Bulgaria
Government of Italy
30 September 2018 Presenting the Melina Mercouri financial prize European Commission
1 January – 31 December 2019 Carrying on the event Designated cities in Bulgaria and Italy
31 December 2020 Final report by the Monitoring and Advisory Panel Government of Bulgaria
Government of Italy

The questionnaire which the candidate cities will have to fill in has six sections. The first one is related to the question why these cities want to have the title European Capital of Culture. It concerns goals, concept, and the motto of the programme; the participation of the region and the commitment of the respective administrations; the link between the event and the long-term development of the city and the region; the connections which have been established with a candidate city in Italy; cooperation with other member states in all spheres of culture; the common aspects of the European cultures.

The section also includes questions about attracting European citizens to the event. The candidate city should also point out how it plans to encourage people of art, people from the cultural sphere, and the citizens of the city and the region to participate in the programme. The positive assessment requires that there should have been a long-term experience and traditions in working on the European financial programmes and institutions. The organizers’ approach to the socially sensitive groups (young people, minorities, disabled people and others) is also scrutinized. The innovateive ideas in terms of long term-effects are highly valued from the point of view of the city’s development. A consistent policy of actively involving citizens in the preparation and fulfillment of the programme is also carefully surveyed.

The second section of the questionnaire requires a presentation of the structure of the programme. The duration and the highlights of the programme are to be described. The criteria of project selection shoul be sated clearly in detail.

The third group of questions concerns the organization and the fulfillment of the event. More specifically, it is about the type and structure of the team responsible for the execution of the project; the relations with the city and regional administrations; the way the artistic director is to be chosen; the distribution of responsibilities; the way the budget is to be organized – resources, sources, the ratio between them; investments and sponsors.

The fourth section of the questionnaire is related to the city infrastructure – transport, tourist-accommodation capacity; major projects.

The fifth section of questions is about the communicational strategy for the popularization of the European Capital of Culture event in the city and the region. The media coverage is of special importance.

The last section of questions is about assessment and monitoring of the event. It concerns systematic observations and surveys of the effect of the programme, and its secondary impact on financial management.

By the end of 2004, when the winners for 2019 will be known, there is sufficient time for careful preparation. The requirements are a true challenge to any candidate country and city. Undoubtedly, for us, here in Bulgaria, it will be the largest international event in our history. Its quantitative parameters are quite indicative: about 300 to 500 cultural projects will be completed on a territory of about 20,000 sq. km. Approximately 2 million participants, visitors, performers, and organizers from Bulgaria and abroad are expected to be involved in the event. In the period 2014 – 2020, the designated city will spend more than 50 million euros for the preparation and completion of the cultural programme.

Additionally, 150 – 200 million euros will be invested in infrastructure – cultural sites, roads, parks and others. A substantial amount of this money will be provided by EU structural funds. Followed the established tradition, the Bulgarian Government will have to make the infrastructure projects of the candidate city its priorities. The organizers will have the responsibility to choose and encourage local sponsors, to engage companies, and thus, create new jobs. In fact, the great chance of the European initiative is to show how the cultural activities can generate a tangible and sustainable economic growth in a certain region.

The experience of the former 37 European Capitals of Culture has proved that the reasonably and efficiently spent money has been a stimulus for the tourist inflow, the revival and development of industries and services, the increase in quality and qualification of human resources. Local citizens in the former Capitals of Culture started living with a higher self-esteem, feeling that they inhabited an attractive and unique place.

The larger the number of the institutions which make good use of the opportunities provided by the European Capital of Culture initiatives is, the larger the number of Bulgarian people living a better life in better conditions will be. Till the moment this is dedicated, it is not only patience that we need. We need various civil, political, educational, and aesthetic initiatives.

Whatever the outcome of the Bulgarian candidature, the benefits are unquestionable. A very valuable experience is gained, acquired, and, to a certain extent, painfully earned and deserved in the name of a definite cause and a clear goal. Citizens develop a new sensibility to cultural facts. Professions and occupations connected with the aesthetic spheres acquire the prestige they so desperately need nowadays. Undoubtedly, these results will have a healthy effect on the social climate and on the personal perspectives ahead for each individual. It really is worth trying!


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