Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the University of Groningen's online course, European Culture and Politics. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds Usually each city has its own title and its own main idea. So it was Thoughts, Spirituality, and Creativity. According to my research which I did for the European Union and European Capital of Culture, there are no rules who is a winner. It depends on many, many, many things and many aspects. So very often, there is a capital of the country. But very often there is a really small city like Santiago de Compostela in the Galicia region in Spain. There’s also Mons in Belgium. Umea in Sweden last year, so the city which I just heard for the first time, the name of the city.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds So it depends on local authority, the determination of people in the city– either cultural operators and people who work in administration and politicians. So it’s a common decision. But it’s not necessary that the capital has this title. For example, West Berlin, which celebrated the title in the late 80’s, rather was a failure. Paris, which celebrated the title in 1989, was also a failure. So it depends on the organisers, depends on the programme, depends on funds, and especially I think the people’s will and belief that they will be able to do it.

Skip to 1 minute and 57 seconds So in Krakow was a centre where singers and dancers from Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Slovenia also came to perform their music and their dances. So it was really excellent. And that was the– I would say– rebirth of central Europe connections, cultural connections, and tradition which was really forgotten under Communism. There was kind of a need to be in Europe to be actually a part of Europe. According to the statistics and some small evaluations which Krakow took after the festival, we didn’t do a lot of evaluation. But some evaluation showed that the festival increased the number of tourism and tourists who decided to choose Krakow as a destination for their flights and for their trips.

Skip to 3 minutes and 5 seconds So of course, quite a lot of tourists and students as well appeared afterwards. But one of the reasons was cheap flights. But also intensification of integration processes. Because we joined the European Union just four years afterwards. So those circumstances help us to raise the more international image and be a more recognisable city in that time. When Krakow and Prague received the title for the year of 2000, it was interpreted as a very big success for central Europe. Not only for Poland and not only for these two cities. But for central Europe.

Skip to 3 minutes and 59 seconds And Krakow has some common projects with Prague for the Festival of the year of 2000. So we collaborated with Prague closely, closer than with other cities. But also we collaborated closely in the year of 2000 with Santiago de Compostela, for example with Helsinki. So of course, with others. But there was a special language in Krakow and Prague for the year of 2000. So Krakow recognised itself– of course, when we think about it geographical location and even maybe a geopolitical location or localisation– Krakow sees itself as a city oriented to central Europe, much more than to Scandinavia or– to East, yes.

Skip to 4 minutes and 55 seconds But we can find another city like Lublin on the east of Poland which creates this image being like a gate between Poland and the East. But Krakow created itself I’m sure since the year of the 2000 as the city which has special relations with some cities of central Europe. The other cities like Ljubljana from Slovenia or Zagreb from Croatia, these cities which were historically and cultural collectives throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Europeanness in European Capitals of Culture

In this video, Dr Bozena Gierat-Bieron from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow talks about Krakow’s experience as a European Capital of Culture in 2000 and the lasting effects on the city of that status.

The European Capitals of Culture (ECOC) programme started in 1985. From the early 1990s on, after Glasgow and Rotterdam had successfully changed their images from declining industrial towns to young and hip global cities, all participating cities were after a similar effect. The ECOC programme has since become a kind of laboratory for urban regeneration through the creative industries. More successful cities succeed at this, while others don’t make much of an impact.

Some more information can be found in this video by the European Commission.

Dr Bozena Gierat-Bieron highlights which role the ECOC status has played in Krakow’s identity and sense of self. 2000 was a special year: that year, twelve cities shared the ECOC title, some of which in countries that were not (yet) member states of the Union. According to Dr Gierat-Bieron, being a Capital of Culture is about creating networks and making connections: in Krakow’s case, this entailed reinvigorating Habsburgian Central Europe as a place of culture and the arts.

The ECOC programme is an important instrument through which the EU wants to foster a sense of European collective or shared identity. Have you ever visited - or heard about - a European Capital of Culture? Do they make you feel more European? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

European Culture and Politics

University of Groningen

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: