Between 1985 and 2012, 45 cities have held the title of European Capital of Culture. The success of the initial concept was such that in 1999, the Council of the EU transformed it into a Community action, and created a more transparent rotational system for the designation of the titleholder.
Nowadays, the European Capitals of Culture are mainly seen as a “mega-event” backed by private investment and sponsorship which, along with the symbolic celebration of European cultural identities, is closely tied to the economic success of the operation. According to experts, over time a number of conflicts and tensions have become apparent due to the multiple and sometimes contradictory objectives of the event, i.e. economic and cultural, to name just two. Additional criticisms include failure to enable local ownership, inability to overcome social divides and exhaustion of local resources. This has in some cases led to the emergence of alternatives, or counter-movements.
An online consultation carried out by the European Commission in 2010, as part of the preparations for a new legal basis for the event after 2019, highlighted that the majority of participants (91%) wished to see the European Capitals of Culture events continue to take place, even though some emphasised the need for a revision of the selection procedure. The European Commission is expected to submit a new proposal by the end of July 2012.