We all know, or at least we all heard of, the European Capitals of Culture Programme. However, we do not know what effect and contribution to economic and cultural development of selected cities might be. Therefore, we should look into some significant research studies conducted on this issue. Researchers have identified certain parameters to evaluate the impact of the Programme on economy, tourism, marketing, infrastructure, society and culture of the cities, both on a local and international scale. They have made it possible to find out whether cultural events create jobs, attract investments, increase tourism and local economy and also improve cultural infrastructures and the image of the city. The impact of investments and benefits generated by the cities, both in short and long-terms, have been studied and analysed by various public and private institutions. Their aim is to promote co-operation between organisers and to inform audiences about the Programme.
In 1991, the European Commission created Network of European Capitals of Culture and European Cultural Months (ECCM), based in Luxembourg. The Network’s objective is to allow exchange as well as dissemination of information between events organisers. And in 2006, the EU established Network of Universities of the European Capitals of Culture (UNeECC) in Pécs (Hungary). Its aim is to allow co-operation between universities of the host cities.
Labforculture is a private network platform on cultural events that originated in the Netherlands. It is now one of the most important European cultural networks, working in 50 countries and in six languages. Labforculture has done research on outcomes of the European Capitals of Culture. They analysed the impact of the title of Capitals of Culture on the three following aspects:
• The capacity of events to attract people on local and international level.
• The connection between events and local audiences.
• The cultural cooperation between local communities and European institutions.
Results of Research Studies
Some of the first research studies on impact of the European Capital of Culture did not include some significant economic parameters. In 1990, when Glasgow was chosen to be the European Capital, a new trend in research was developed. Since then, also importance of economic development and improvement of the image of the city have been evaluated. In recent years, researchers have focused on economic impact of selected cities and they have demonstrated that the Capital of Culture is an opportunity for economic development and urban revitalisation. However, the majority of these researchers have related just to a single city, for instance the report by J. Myerscough measured the impact of Glasgow as a European Capital of Culture in 1990. In 2001, Giannalia Cogliandro’s report evaluated collaboration between European Capitals of Culture. Unfortunately, only in 2000, Research Group on Capital of Culture was established.
In 2004, Robert Palmer conducted an important research on the European Capitals of Culture. His study called European Cities and Capitals of Culture, has been commissioned by the European Commission, with the aim to evaluate cultural, economic, and social tourism in the period of 1994-2004, in relation to the previous evaluation study of the European Capitals of Culture (1985-1993).
The study highlights six fundamental aspects which are essential for every European Capital of Culture:
• Presentation of events with European artists as protagonists;
• Collaboration, co-productions and exchanges;
• Development of European issues and problems;
• Identification and celebration of various aspects of history, identity and heritage;
• Partnership between two or more European cities;
• Promotion of tourism abroad.
Palmer’s report also highlighted a number of crucial factors which contributed to success of European Capital of Culture. The researcher surprisingly proved that for most cities social objectives were not among top priorities and this could have been a major flaw.
The latest research commissioned by the European Commission and conducted by Beatriz Garcia and Tamsin Cox in 2013, focused on the long-term economic impact in the cities. It also confirmed the importance and significance of factor such as planning strategies and participation of volunteers in the Programme development. Therefore, organisers with better long-term strategies have more chances to obtain the title of the Capital of Culture.
The Capitals of Culture in 2015
Since 2011, two cities are chosen to host the Capital of Culture every year. This year, the two Capitals of Culture are: Plzeň in the Czech Republic and Mons in Belgium. Last year the chosen cities were the Latvian capital Riga and Umeå in Sweden. The first cities to be awarded Capitals of Culture were mostly capital cities, such as Athens in 1985, Madrid in 1992. However, recently also smaller cities have been selected.