European Capital of Culture – what is it actually?
It all began in 1985, when the Council of the European Community, acting on a proposal by then Greek Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri, decided to designate an annual “European City of Culture”, as it was called at first. The aim of the initiative was and is “to safeguard and promote the diversity of cultures in Europe and to highlight the common features they share“ as well as to “open up to the European public particular aspects of the culture of the (designated) city, region or country concerned“.
With Graz (2003) and Linz (2009), Austria has been awarded the title of European Capital of Culture twice so far and is, according to the Union’s rotation system, eligible again in 2024, as is Estonia. In 2018, the Maltese capital of Valletta (5,719 inhabitants on 0.84 square kilometres) was the smallest European Capital of Culture to date. With Bergen (NOR), Reykjavik (ISL), Stavanger (NOR) and Istanbul (TUR), cities from non-member states of the EU have also been awarded the title; this is also part of the initiative.
Why do we want to apply for the European Capital of Culture 2024?
We see a great opportunity in giving impetus to the development of the fourth largest urban agglomeration in Austria beyond city and municipal borders – on the basis of a long-term cultural strategy. In times when border fences are being erected, it is important to set signals and promote openness and cultural exchange in an all-European context. We see the dynamic development of our society with all its challenges as an opportunity and we develop new cultural perspectives – for everyone.
For whom are we making this bid for European Capital of Culture 2024?
The bid is a regional development process that is initiated for all people living in Vorarlberg and in which everyone is invited to participate. In this it is essential to look into our own art and culture in a European and international context. What story can we tell Europe? What does Europe tell us? In the process, we create a cultural climate in which questions about our own identity are asked. The aim is to enable a broad access to cultural and artistic themes individually or in community. It is all about “art for all”.
Which criteria have to be met in the bid?
There are six criteria to be met. First, the bid (and title) has to contribute to a long-term cultural strategy and have sustainable effects on the city or region involved. Second: the “European dimension” – the active promotion of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, the stories that we want to present to Europe and the stories we want to hear from Europe. Every activity in the context of the European Capital of Culture has to have this all-European approach and implementation. The third criterion deals with the cultural and artistic content of the ECOC programme, the fourth asks for proof of the required infrastructure and political support. Fifth, the population needs to be actively involved, as was the case in our Think Tanks, Dialogue Workshops and the STARTprojects #borderlinemoments, Me, Grandma, Grandpa and Europe etc. In the last of the six criteria, the organisational structure of the team behind the bid and milestones of the ECOC year have to be described.
Who’s behind all this?
The idea of applying for European Capital of Culture has been discussed in the cities of the Vorarlberg Rhine Valley since 2014. It became more concrete at a joint meeting of city council representatives on July 4, 2016 in the village of Schwarzenberg, when an overwhelming majority voted in favour of a bid. After Bregenz decided to leave the joint bid, the city of Dornbirn took the lead. Only cities are eligible to apply and take the lead, but the bid itself may also include bigger regions. Starting in December 2017, Mag. Bettina Steindl, who has already worked for the ECOC bids of Linz09 and RUHR.2010, heads the ECOC 2024 office and the team preparing the bid.
Who gets to decide what and when?
The decision on participating in the joint ECOC 2024 bid by the cities of Dornbirn, Feldkirch, Hohenems and the Bregenzerwald region was made in the respective city councils. An international jury, appointed by the EU, will decide on the success of the bids in 2019. All application documents must be submitted by December 31, 2018. After two more rounds of more detailed versions of the application documents, presentations to the jury, jury visits and the like, the jury will decide who will receive the title at the end of 2019.
What’s it gonna cost us?
So far, it was common practice in Austria to divide the costs among three parties: the cities, the federal government and the regional government, with the EU adding another 1.5 million Euro. For 2017 and 2018, the cities jointly provided 305,000 Euro each per year for the preparation of a possible application (joint resolution of city councils on July 4, 2016).
What can I do?
There are various projects where you can get involved. You can also become active from the comfort of your own home: Talk to your family and friends, think of what you want your cultural environment to be, look at its potential and your wishes! The European Capital of Culture is for everyone, and everyone should be able to be part of it at some point.
How do we see culture?
For us, culture is the basis of a functioning society, the basis of how we live together. Culture connects the past of our society with our future. We therefore stand for a broad concept of culture that encompasses the links between art and culture and the social areas of education, social affairs, interculture, diversity, mobility, sport and science.