The independent selection panel responsible for assessing the Bulgarian cities competing to be European Capital of Culture in 2019 has recommended that Plovdiv should be awarded the title. The other three cities short-listed after the initial selection round in December 2013 were Sofia, Varna and Veliko Turnovo. The formal nomination of Plovdiv by the EU's Council of Ministers is expected to take place in May 2015.
Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, stated: "I congratulate Plovdiv both on its successful bid and also on being the first ever European Capital of Culture in Bulgaria. The competition was tough, with eight initial contenders narrowed down to four finalists. I am confident that Plovdiv will enable visitors from Europe and all over the world to discover not only the city itself but also to appreciate the cultural diversity, history and values of our continent. I am convinced that the title will bring Plovdiv and its surrounding area significant long-term cultural, economic and social benefits, as we have seen with previous European Capitals of Culture."
In accordance with the Decision of the European Parliament and the EU's Council of Ministers which sets out the criteria for the European Capital of Culture, Bulgaria and Italy
are the two Member States which will share the title in 2019. The final selection in Italy will take place in October.
The criteria state that cities should prepare a cultural programme with a strong European dimension, which fosters the participation of citizens in the city, its neighbourhood and the whole country. The programme must have a lasting impact and contribute to the long-term cultural and social development of the city.
The European dimension is reflected in the chosen themes and in the way events in the programme are organised. Cooperation between cultural operators in different EU countries is encouraged.
The process for selecting a European Capital of Culture begins with a pre-selection phase after which an initial shortlist of bidding cities is drawn up. The final selection takes place nine months later. The city chosen by the panel is then officially designated by the EU's Council of Ministers.
The panel assessing the cities is made up of 13 independent cultural experts - six appointed by the Member State and seven by the European institutions.
The members of the panel appointed by the European institutions currently are:
Appointed by the European Commission: Suzana Žilič Fišer (Slovenia), professor and Head of Media Communications Department at the University of Maribor and Director General of Maribor – European Capital of Culture 2012; Ulrich Fuchs (Germany), Deputy artistic director of Linz 2009 and Marseille-Provence 2013.
Appointed by the Council: Anu Kivilo (Estonia), Managing Director of the International Arvo Pärt Centre; Norbert Riedl (Austria), Head of Department for cultural affairs at the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture.
Appointed by the European Parliament: Jordi Pardo (Spain), responsible for cultural projects in the field of international culture; Steve Green (United Kingdom), who has an extensive experience of international cultural relations and the role of culture and languages in society with EUNIC (European Network of National Cultural Institutes) and the British Council.
Appointed by the Committee of the Regions: Elisabeth Vitouch (Austria), who represents the Commission for Culture and Education of the Committee of the Regions and is a member of the Vienna City government.
Following Umeå (Sweden) and Riga (Latvia) this year, Mons (Belgium) and Plzen (Czech Republic) will be European Capitals of Culture in 2015, Wrocław (Poland) and Donastia San Sebastián (Spain) in 2016, Aarhus (Denmark) and Paphos (Cyprus) in 2017 and Valletta (Malta) and Leeuwarden (Netherlands) in 2018.