Marseille (France) and Košice (Slovakia) are the European Capitals of Culture in 2013. The cultural programme will officially begin on 12 January in Marseille and on 19 January in Košice.
Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: "This is the moment that Marseille and Košice have been preparing for - and waiting for - since their selection as the 2013 European Capitals of Culture. I'm sure the public will be treated to an unforgettable launch in both cities. The opening events will mark the beginning of what will be a tremendous year of cultural activities, aimed not only at local people from the city and surrounding region, but also at those coming from much further afield. The European Capital of Culture has been a fantastic EU success story for more than 25 years: the title is a unique opportunity to boost a city's cultural vibrancy and long-term development, as well as being hugely important for tourism, job creation and urban regeneration. I wish both 2013 Capitals of Culture every success!"
The launch of Marseille-Provence 2013 will take place on 12 and 13 January 2013 with four festive highlights: a public opening ceremony in Marseille attended by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, the opening of a contemporary art exhibition in Aix-en-Provence, a treasure hunt in Marseille-Provence and a fireworks display in Arles to close the opening week-end.
Košice will open its festivities, in the presence of Commissioner Vassiliou, on 19 and 20 January at various locations of the city, including the State Theatre, the Steel Arena, the Podium as well various clubs, restaurants and cultural venues. "Košice 2013 – European Capital of Culture" will profile the city as the crossing of old routes between East and West.
In autumn 2012 the European Commission awarded the Melina Mercouri Prize (worth €1.5 million) to the two 2013 Capitals in recognition of the quality of their preparations and for meeting the commitments they made at the selection stage.
The European Capital of Culture is one of the most high-profile cultural events in Europe. The Capitals are selected on the basis of a cultural programme that must have a European dimension, involve the public, be attractive at the European level and fit into the long-term development of the city.
It is also an excellent opportunity for the cities to change their image, put themselves on the world map, attract more tourists and rethink their own development through culture.
The title has a long-term impact, not only on culture but also in social and economic terms, both for the city and for the surrounding region. For example, a study has shown that the number of tourists visiting the city for at least one night increased by 12% on average compared with the year before the city held the title; this figure was as high as 25% for Liverpool in 2008 and Sibiu (Romania) in 2007.
The current rules and conditions for hosting the title are set out in a 2006 decision (1622/2006/EC) of the European Parliament and Council of Ministers.
Following Marseille and Košice in 2013, the future European Capitals of Culture will be Riga (Latvia) and Umeå (Sweden) in 2014, Mons (Belgium) and Plzeň (Czech Republic) in 2015, and Donostia-San Sebastián (Spain) and Wrocław (Poland) in 2016.