The selection panel of independent experts responsible for assessing the cities competing to be European Capital of Culture in 2021 in a candidate country or potential candidate has recommended that Novi Sad, Serbia, should be awarded the title.
Two cities had been shortlisted after the preselection round in December 2015:
- Herceg Novi in Montenegro
- Novi Sad in Serbia
- The Commission has now to formally endorse the panel's recommendation.
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. The initiative is now open to cities in candidate countries or potential candidates for EU membership every third year as of 2021. Novi Sad will be on the spotlight in 2021 along with the city of Timisoara (Romania) and a city in Greece that will be selected in a few weeks out of the three shortlisted cities (Elefsina, Kalamata and Rhodes).
Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner responsible for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said:
"I am very pleased that in 2021 we will have our first European Capital of Culture in a candidate country. The opening of this prestigious European programme to those countries seeking full membership is a way to bring them closer to and reinforce their cultural links with the Union. I congratulate Novi Sad on its successful bid."
"I am confident that Novi Sad will 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 Europe as well as our shared values. I am confident that the title will bring Novi Sad significant long-term cultural, as well as economic and social benefits, as we have seen with many previous European Capitals of Culture."
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 Romania
- one in Greece
- one in a candidate country or potential candidate to EU membership (participating in Creative Europe).
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, or in the case of candidate countries and potential candidates, by the European Commission.
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 between cities in candidate countries/potential candidates, the Commission published a call for applications in December 2014. The call was open to cities in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. Two cities applied for the first round, Herceg Novi and Novi Sad.
The two applications received were examined by a panel composed of 10 independent experts appointed by the European Union institutions and bodies. Both applications were shortlisted and requested to submit a revised application by 9 September 2016.
More detail on the members of the panel is available.
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, and Matera (Italy) and Plovdiv (Bulgaria) in 2019. In 2020, Rijeka (Croatia) and Galway (Ireland) will hold the title.
The city of Timișoara in Romania was recommended by the panel of experts in September 2016 and is pending the official nomination by the Romanian authorities. The selection meeting in Greece will take place in November 2016.