Announcement of the European Commission regarding the nomination of a Greek candidate city for the ECOC 2021

News item

Brussels, 11 November 2016

Elefsina to be the European Capital of Culture in Greece in 2021

The selection panel of independent experts responsible for assessing the Greek cities competing to be European Capital of Culture in 2021 has recommended that Elefsina should be awarded the title. Three cities had been short-listed after the initial pre-selection round in February 2016: Elefsina, Kalamata and Rhodes. The formal designation of Elefsina by the relevant Greek authorities is expected to take place in the coming months.

Started in 1985 on the initiative of the then Greek Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri, European Capitals of Culture have developed into one of the most ambitious cultural projects in Europe and become one of the best known – and most appreciated – activities of the European Union.

The original motivation of the project is more relevant than ever. It is to provide Europeans with an opportunity to learn more about each other’s cultures, to enter into intercultural dialogue and to enjoy their shared history and values: in other words, to experience the feeling of belonging to the same European community. Along the years, the European Capitals of Culture have grown in scope and size, contributing to the cultural, social and economic development of many cities and their neighbouring regions across Europe.

Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner responsible for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said: “In 2021, Greece will host its fourth European Capital of Culture after Athens in 1985, Thessaloniki in 1997 and Patras in 2006. Many cities competed for the title, with 14 initial contenders narrowed down to three finalists. This shows once again how popular this EU initiative is with cities and citizens. I congratulate Elefsina on its successful bid. I look forward to seeing Elefsina give visitors from Europe and all over the world the opportunity to discover the city and its cultural assets but also to appreciate the diversity of cultures in the European Union as well as our shared values – this is today more vital than ever. As many previous European Capitals of Culture have shown, the title can bring significant long-term cultural, as well as economic and social benefits – benefits that Elefsina now stands to reap as well.”


In accordance with the Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council which governs the European Capitals of Culture Union action, there will be three European Capitals of Culture in 2021: one in Greece, one in Romania and one in a candidate country or potential candidate to EU membership.

According to the current scheme for designating the European Capitals of Culture, the selection has two rounds: a pre-selection round, following which a shortlist of candidate cities is drawn up, and a final selection round nine months later (one city is recommended for the title). The selected cities are then officially designated by the Member State concerned.

The selection criteria state that cities should prepare a cultural programme with a strong European dimension, which fosters the participation of the city’s stakeholders as well as its various neighbourhoods and attracts visitors from the whole country and Europe. The programme must have a lasting impact and contribute to the long-term development of the city. The cities must also show that they have the support from the relevant public local authorities and the capacity to deliver the project.

Regarding the competition in Greece, the Greek Culture Ministry of Culture and Sports invited applications from interested cities in December 2014. Fourteen cities applied: Corfu, Delphi, Elefsina (Eleusis), Ioannina, Kalamata, Larissa, Lesvos (Mytilene), Messolonghi, Piraeus, Rhodes, Salamina (Salamis), Samos, Tripolis and Volos. The pre-selection meeting took place in February 2016 and three cities (Elefsina, Kalamata and Rhodes) were short-listed. They were given until October 2016 to complete their applications and then invited to a final selection meeting in Athens on 10-11 November.

The applications were examined by a panel composed of 12 independent experts – two appointed by the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports and ten appointed by the European Union institutions and bodies.

The ten independent members of the panel appointed by the European Union institutions and bodies currently are:

  • Appointed by the European Commission: Steve Green (United Kingdom), who has an extensive experience of international cultural relations and the role of culture and languages in society with EUNIC (European Network of National Cultural Institutes) and the British Council; Jordi Pardo (Spain), CEO of the Pau Casals Foundation and expert in strategic planning and urban renewal through culture and tourism; Suzana Žilič Fišer (Slovenia), professor and head of media communications department at the University of Maribor and director general of Maribor – European Capital of Culture 201
  • Appointed by the Council: Ulrich Fuchs (Germany), deputy artistic director and programme director of Linz, European Capital of Culture 2009, and Marseille-Provence, European Capital of Culture 2013; Aiva Rozenberga (Latvia), director of the Latvian Institute and programme director of Rīga, European Capital of Culture 2014; Pauli Sivonen (Finland), director of Serlachius Museum.
  • Appointed by the European Parliament: Sylvia Amann (Austria), who is specialised in urban, regional and rural development, culture and the creative economy; Cristina Farinha (Portugal), expert in the development of creative industries and national cultural strategies; Agnieszka Wlazeł (Poland), expert in audience development and former CEO and artistic director of art festivals.
  • Appointed by the Committee of the Regions: Alain Hutchinson (Belgium), Commissioner of the Brussels Government in charge of the relations with European & International organisations and Deputy Mayor of Saint Gilles in charge of Education.

Following Wrocław (Poland) and Donostia-San Sebastián (Spain) this year, Aarhus (Denmark) and Paphos (Cyprus) will be European Capitals of Culture in 2017, Leeuwarden (Netherlands) and Valletta (Malta) in 2018, Matera (Italy) and Plovdiv (Bulgaria) in 2019, and Rijeka (Croatia) and Galway (Ireland) in 2020.

The city of Timisoara in Romania was recommended by the panel of experts in September 2016 and is pending the official nomination by the Romanian authorities. The city of Novi Sad in Serbia (competition between cities in candidate countries / potential candidates) was recommended by the panel in October 2016 and is pending the official nomination by the European Commission.

For more information

European Commission: Culture