Last January, the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage organised a conference together with the International Cultural Centre in Krakow dedicated to a competition among Polish cities aiming to apply for the title of European Capital of Culture in 2016. This project is regarded as one of the most representative and recognisable programmes within the cultural activities of the European Union. From 2009 the title of the European Capital of Culture will be attributed to two cities in Europe ? first from the group of the “old” 15 member states and secondly from the countries that joined the EU in 2004. The aim of the initiative is to strengthen European cooperation in the field of culture, promoting the cultural diversity of the member states and helping them to broaden their mutual understanding.
The European Parliament and the Council decided that in 2016 one Polish and one Spanish city will carry the title of European Capital of Culture. The list of applicants will be published by the end of 2009 and then the competition will begin. Finally, the end of 2011 will mark the nomination of the victorious city, based on the EU Council of Ministers’ decision. The conference in Krakow was intentionally organised seven years before the event as the Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Bogdan Zdrojewski, pointed out that the cities entering the competition will have enough time to prepare their event schedule and undertake the necessary investments.
“Theoretically, a similar conference could be held in 2009, 2010 or even later, but I want to stress that it is important for me that the decision is made as early as possible, taking into account the present regulatory framework,” said Minister Zdrojewski. The nomination of 2016’s Capital of Culture should be on the one hand regarded as a prize for the awarded city, but on the other hand it should equal a serious and long-term investment in the sphere of culture. By applying for the title, the minister wants the aspiring cities to prepare a complete offer in terms of cultural undertakings addressed to every possible audience, dividing the whole into branches. “The events schedule must be addressed to those who adore the contemporary arts, to those who spend time in museums, as well as to those who are keen opera or philharmonic enthusiasts,” added the minister. Therefore, a selection panel of 13 international experts will be appointed to assess impartially the candidates’ programmes. One of the experts will be Professor Jacek Purchla, the Director of the International Cultural Centre in Krakow, indicating that Krakow, which was a European Capital of Culture in 2000, will not be a rival this time.
The conference’s aim was to invite members of the European Commission and international experts, and on the basis of their experience, provoke a fruitful debate, organise workshops and give the applicants a chance for a broader exchange of know-how and expertise. As a result, the International Cultural Centre, situated on the Market Square in Krakow, served as a meeting point for all representatives of the applicant cities, whose rivalry finally had an opportunity to come into play. Cities such as Warsaw, Gdansk, Lodz, Wroclaw, Gorzow Wielkopolski, Gniezno, Katowice, and Lublin will all apply for the title of the European Capital of Culture.
While selecting a city that might represent Poland in the best way, the focal point of the Ministry plan is that the investments proposed by the city must be allotted for cultural purposes in the purest sense, and not for entertainment. “Cultural development projects based only on entertainment, without any educational character, in our view, do not raise any standards and are interesting only for the city itself, not for the whole country. Cities have to show offers exceeding the borders of the region,” stressed Minister Zdrojewski. All presented projects will be put to the test and checked against many criteria. Above all, the Ministry is concerned whether the idea will be feasible.