Since 1985, the title "European Capital of Culture" has been designated by the Council of Ministers of the European Union. This title is awarded to a city, which involves the entire regional area with its program.
In 2019, after Florence, Bologna and Genoa, the title "European Capital of Culture" will be awarded again to another Italian city. This city will need to pass the selection process by the European Commission in conjunction with the Italian Government, which officially started in 2012.
In detail, the selection process involves the following procedures:
• By the end of 2012: the Italian Government will launch the expression of interest;
• 2013: the Italian cities involved will have 10 months to submit a proposal;
• By the end of 2013: a jury composed of 6 experts selected by the Italian Government + 7 experts chosen by the European institutions (European Commission, European Parliament, Council of Ministers of the European Union and the Committee of the Regions) will select a short list of suitable cities;
• 2014: the pre-selected cities will present the complete proposal;
• By the end of 2014: the jury will recommend a city as capital of Europe and this recommendation will be notified by the Italian Government to the European institutions;
• May 2015: The Council of Ministers of the European Union will officially designate the European Capital of Culture";
• 2015-2019: The selected city will develop the European Capital of Culture’s agenda, in collaboration with experts at European level.
Based on what criteria is a European Capital selected? The European Commission guideline reports as follows:
- A city is not designated Capital of Culture solely for what it is or what it does. It is awarded the title principally on the strength of the programme of specific cultural events, which it proposes organising in the year in question, which is meant to be an exceptional year. In this respect, the concept of Capital of Culture is entirely different from that of, for instance, the UNESCO World Heritage sites. The city's heritage and long-standing cultural life may stand it in good stead; yet, they may only form a basis for the organisation of the event. Any applications in the form of a city tourist brochure would therefore be inappropriate. It is important for the programme to be forward-looking, without neglecting the history of the city underpinning its identity. This means that the innovative nature of the event and, in this context, the emphasis laid on contemporary cultural forms and the capacity to foster creativity by involving local and European artists, are of the utmost importance. The programme will be supported by a cultural dynamism which valorises cultural identity of the place developing innovative cultural outcomes.
- It is necessary to emphasize the "European dimension" of the candidature. This criterion is intended to foster cooperation between cultural operators, artists and European cities, highlighting the richness of cultural diversity in Europe and bringing the common aspects of European cultures to the fore. In other words, it is necessary to figure out, firstly, which characteristic Matera and its territory can show to other European cities, secondly, the way in which the Lucan cultural realities can connect and work in cooperation with the European cities, thirdly, the way in which the Matera community can develop creative in line with the challenges that Europe is facing. The event will focus on the contribution that culture and creativity can provide to the challenges of EU 2020 strategy: smart growth (urban integrated planning of a culture and knowledge city which combines economic development, culture, creativity and digital technologies) sustainable growth (combining creativity and technologies for energy efficiency and better use of environmental resources) andinclusive growth (social inclusion and intercultural dialogue, taking into account the changes in Mediterranean basin).
- It is necessary to involve the “city and citizens”: a participative European capital of culture. Through this goal, the European Commission encourages the participation of the citizens living in the city and its surroundings and raise their interest as well as the interest of citizens from abroad. Two principles are apparent in the "City and Citizens" criteria:
- Firstly, the aim is to achieve an attractive, participative European Capital of Culture, namely able to attract not only the local and national population but also foreign tourists. Therefore, Matera needs to set out an application in which the event could be of interest to a Polish, Swedish or Portuguese tourist;
- Secondly, the purpose is to develop a participative European Capital of Culture, actively involving the population's participation, at local, region level as well as and further levels (e.g. the large network of Lucans in the world). It is the city's responsibility to develop a well-balanced project by promoting the specific features of the city as elements of European cultural diversity while conveying an attractive image at international level and arousing interest and enthusiasm in the local population.
- Another criterion is sustainability. This criterion is intended to encourage cities to devise a programme with lasting effects, a programme which impacts on the long-term development of the city, long after a short-lived display of cultural events. The cities are therefore asked to build on this event with long-term projects and cooperation, in which it is possible to identify elements of economic and organizational sustainability. The event will therefore be an opportunity which may help to change or to consolidate and develop cultural practices in the city.