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Public call for applications for cities published in April
European Capital of Culture 2026 to be selected from Finland

Ministry of Education and Culture 29.1.2019 10.20
Press release

A Finnish city will become a European Capital of Culture in 2026. The Ministry of Education and Culture will publish the call for applications for cities in April. All proposals must be submitted by May 2020. Another 2026 European Capital of Culture will be selected from Slovakia.

The European Capital of Culture initiative is among the most widely known actions of the European Union. It draws attention to the importance of cities as centres of cultural life. The programme for the year celebrating the European Capital of Culture will highlight the richness of art and culture and the cultural features Europeans share. The designated city can develop its cultural, social and economic life. A European panel of experts will select the European Capitals of Culture, and the Ministry of Education and Culture will formally designate the Finnish city in the summer of 2021.

“It is great how many cities have already shown interest in the European Capital of Culture event”, said Minister Sampo Terho.

According to Terho, the application stage itself will open up opportunities for the cities to launch a broad-ranging debate on culture, highlight their strengths and characteristics, and show how they wish to develop culturally. “With a long application period of more than a year, we seek to provide cities of all sizes a chance to get inspired and join the competition,” said Terho. 

This will be the third European Capital of Culture chosen from Finland. The two previous were Helsinki in 2000 and Turku in 2011. This year, the title was awarded to Matera in Italy and Plovdiv in Bulgaria.

Over a year to publish proposals

The Ministry of Education and Culture will publish the call for applications and hold a press conferences on the application criteria in April 2019. Cities can apply until May 2020. The applications are then reviewed by an independent European panel of experts that has 12 members selected from a list, maintained by the Commission, of independent experts in the field of arts and culture. Finland will appoint two experts for the panel.

The selection process has two stages: the panel of experts will first agree on a shortlist of proposals in June 2020.  The cities can then submit more detailed applications, before the panel reconvenes to assess the proposals again in the spring of 2021.

The panel of experts will recommend one Finnish city for the title, and in the summer of 2021 the Ministry will designate the city as a European Capital of Culture.

The panel will monitor the city's preparations and support them with advice and guidance until the city takes over the 2026 title.

Selection process based on EU Decision

The selection of the European Capitals of Culture is based on Decision No 445/2014/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council. Finland will be implementing it for the first time because the selection process for the 2000 and 2011 titles was based on earlier EU decisions. The most important difference between the earlier and the current process is the introduction of a panel of experts who make the selection.

The assessment of the proposals is based on the criteria published in the EU Decision, including cultural and artistic content, range and diversity of the activities, cultural strategy of the city, plans to develop cultural and creative sectors, scope and quality of activities, feasibility of project implementation, inclusion, and project management.

The European Capital of Culture action is funded by the city and its partners (such as any neighbouring cities, businesses and communities), the Commission and the central government. The amount of central government funding has not yet been decided on. The Commission will pay the designated city the Melina Mercouri Prize of EUR 1.5 million. Cultural events and projects that will be part of the European Capital of Culture action and are based on European cooperation can apply for funds from the EU’s Creative Europe programme.

Inquiries: Iina Berden, Special Government Advisor, Ministry of Education and Culture, tel. +358 2953 30069

Related links

- European Capitals of Culture (European Commission) 

Decision No 445/2014/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a Union action for the European Capitals of Culture for the years 2020 to 2033 (EUR-Lex) 

Culture Sampo Terho