Budapest, Hungary – The European Commission announced Veszprém as the surprising winner of the European Capital of Culture title for 2023, the city beating the other Hungarian bids by Debrecen and Győr.
While the UK was initially supposed to co-host the programme with Hungary in 2023, the European Commission announced yesterday that the UK’s selection process should “immediately be discontinued”, as the country will no longer be eligible to have a host city after it leaves the EU in 2019.
Amidst rising tensions between Hungary and the EU, Veszprém will thus be the only host of the European Capital of Culture Programme in 2023. It is the second time Hungary hosts the programme, after the city of Pécs in 2010.
Prague and Kraków were among nine cities to jointly host the programme for the millennium year in 2000, as the Czech Republic and Poland were set to join the EU in 2004. Since the four Visegrád countries joined the EU, other winners include Slovakia’s Košice in 2013, the Czech Republic’s Plzeň in 2015, and Poland’s Wrocław in 2016. Slovakia will host the programme once more in 2026, while Czech and Polish cities are elligible to bid for the 2028 and 2029 editions.
One of the most important cultural programmes of the European Union, the European Capital of Culture Programme is designed to showcase the wealth of Europe’s cultural diversity as well as its shared cultural features. It can be an opportunity for the host 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.
Initially called the European City of Culture, the Programme was conceived in 1983 by then Greek minister of culture, Melina Mercouri, and her French counterpart, Jack Lang. The European City of Culture programme was launched in the summer of 1985 with Athens being the first title-holder.
One of the oldest urban areas in Hungary, and one of its most “underrated”, according to the Lonely Planet, Veszprém lies approximately 15 km north of the Lake Balaton, by the Bakony Hills.
“History lingers around each corner of the city, where you can find one of the earliest stone castles built in the country,” according to the Australian guide book publisher, “the town’s narrow streets, medieval buildings, Hungary’s first cathedral, the historic fire tower, and annual music festival in the summer months make it perfect for anyone looking for a culture fix, especially in the years leading up to 2023”.
VeszprémFest, for instance, has become one of the most renowned high quality music events in Hungary.
Interestingly enough, Tibor Navracsics, a member of the Fidesz and the current European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, comes from Veszprém…