Starting this month Marseille and Košice will have one year to show people why they were chosen as 2013's European capitals of culture. Over the years the initiative has proved a popular way to discover the charms of cities across Europe. Last year It was the turn of Guimarães in Portugal and Maribor in Slovenia, but in 2013 it is up to the two cities in France and Slovakia to seduce visitors with a wide range of cultural events.
European capitals of culture
Since the initiative was launched in 1985, more than 40 cities have been picked as European capitals of culture. The title is awarded by the Council, but the procedure involves a selection panel of experts that includes MEPs.
Founded in 600 BC by Greek colonists from Phocaea in Asia Minor, Marseille is France's oldest town. Today it is also the country's second biggest city, boasting more than 850,000 inhabitants.This year it aims to highlight culture's role as a force for sustainable transformation of the city on economic, urban and social levels.
Jean-Luc Bennahmias, a French Liberal Democrat MEP, commented: "Marseille is the hyphen between Europe and the Mediterranean region. This year will be the opportunity to build bridges between the two shores of the Mediterranean, to discover the richness of cultural diversity and to better live together. It will also allow the city to strengthen its cultural offer, to renew its infrastructure (two new museums will open) and develop eco-tourism in the whole department."
Although it is only the first city in Slovakia to be designated European capital of culture, Košice has a long history and was the first settlement in Europe to be granted its own coat of arms.The city on the edge of the Schengen area wants to use its year as European capital of culture to create a gateway to Eastern Europe and become the centre of creativity for its young people.
Monika Smolková, a Slovakian Social Democrat MEP, said: "Košice is the city where I have lived, worked, and it is a city I truly love. Its residents as well as visitors can enjoy a wide variety of events for all generations. I highly recommend visiting the Cathedral of St. Elizabeth, East Slovak Museum, State Theatre, Crafts alley and also the Hall of arts or barracks - Kulturpark. European capital of culture Košice 2013 is a long term project. All renovated places will serve its residents and visitors in the future."