European Capital of CultureStarting in 1985 with Athens, European Capital of Culture event has alwaysbeen a highly popular and successful annual feature. As of the 2011 title, twocities in different Member States are twinned and they organize a variety ofactivities and events.The first European capital of culture was Athens, in 1985. Since then, theevent has been such a success each year that the title is now highly prized.From 2011, two cities – from two different EU countries – will be Europeancapitals of culture.The European capital of culture is a golden opportunity to show off Europescultural richness and diversity, and all the ties which link us together asEuropeans. The event is so attractive that Europes cities vie with each otherfiercely for the honor of bearing the title.For a number of years, the EUs Culture program has helped finance theevent, and will continue to do so in future. From 2012, there will be a newprocedure for selecting future European capitals of culture.Developing the potential of the European capital of cultureA study carried out by an independent expert between 1995 and 2004 confirms thepositive media response to the event. It has improved the image of the chosen citiesin the eyes of their inhabitants and helped develop culture and tourism there. The EUwants to see the forthcoming cultural capitals do yet more to encourage the long-term impact on the cultural development of the cities and their environs. The newprocedure includes a key follow-up phase once the cities have been selected.How cities are selectedCities wishing to become European capital of culture must prepare a cultural programthat meets rather specific criteria: it must reflect the European character of the eventand involve the participation of the people who live there.The European flavor can be seen in the themes chosen and the artists and culturalorganizers from different countries cooperating to put on the event. The programmust also have a lasting and sustainable impact on the citys long-term cultural,economic and social development.