Which city was the first to be selected as the European Capital of Culture?
The European City of Culture programme was launched in the summer of 1985 with Athens being the first title-holder. During the German presidency of 1999, the European City of Culture programme was renamed to European Capital of Culture.
The European Capital of Culture is a city designated by the European Union (EU) for a period of one calendar year during which it organises a series of cultural events with a strong pan-European dimension.
Preparing a European Capital of Culture can be an opportunity for the city to generate considerable cultural, social and economic benefits and it can help foster urban regeneration, change the city's image and raise its visibility and profile on an international scale.
In 1985, Melina Mercouri, Greece’s minister of culture, and her French counterpart Jack Lang came up with the idea of designating an annual Capital of Culture to bring Europeans closer together by highlighting the richness and diversity of European cultures and raising awareness of their common history and values. It is strongly believed that the ECoC significantly maximises social and economic benefits, especially when the events are embedded as a part of a long–term culture-based development strategy of the city and the surrounding region.