European Capitals of Culture: Essen, Istanbul and Pécs

Essen in Germany, Istanbul in Turkey and Pécs in Hungary are the three European capitals of culture for 2010. A variety of cultural events will be held throughout the year with the aim of showcasing the attractions the cities offer. The choice of Istanbul has a particular significance as it is a country that is a candidate for future EU membership.

Pécs a multicultural university city

Hungarian EPP member Ádám Kósa said of Pécs "it is a traditionally multi-racial city and it has a university with more than 30, 000 students. Everyone living here, or staying here for a while brings their own culture along, which creates the unique spirit of the city. As the slogan says, Pécs is a borderless city."

Mr Kósa went on to talk about what was to happen: "Jazz and symphonic concerts, theatres and puppet theatres for adults and children, international folk dance meetings will come one after another this year."

This was expanded by his compatriot Pál Schmitt (EPP) who told us that "in the forthcoming months a modern concert hall and a new cultural quarter will open its gates, while the city expects some one million visitors with several hundreds of events, festivals, exhibitions and concerts all over the year."

Essen "does not breathe dust anymore"

The regeneration of the Essen industrial region of the Ruhr valley in Germany is at the centre piece of the events under the banner RUHR.2010 for the year ahead. German Social Democrat MEP Jens Geier put it like this: "Essen and the Ruhr area don't breathe dust anymore but the future. RUHR.2010 visualizes the transformation of the former mining region. It makes the future touchable with new ways of arts and culture around unconventional locations. It is a cultural capital for everybody and by all."

The organisers plan to base much of the celebrations around the Ruhr Mythology. Throughout the year there will be theatre events, music, language, creative industries and festivals.

Istanbul: "a meeting place of cultures"

British MEP Richard Howitt (S&D) and member of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee said: "Istanbul is one of Europe's great cities and a meeting place of cultures which has inspired artists from Mozart to Agatha Christie. It will showcase its tremendous wealth of cultural riches as a modern vibrant city not only to Europe but to the world. Having myself visited the city on numerous occasions, I am sure Istanbul will make a great success."

British Liberal Member Andrew Duff MEP remarked: "There is no better place to get a sense of Europe's rich history than Istanbul. Only Rome compares. Today Istanbul is Turkey's critical test-bed. The great city points the way forwards towards a multicultural, liberal and more prosperous future."

Mr Howitt went on to say that "the programme is diverse and exciting, criss-crossing cultural genres from visual arts, architectural heritage, and traditional arts to music, opera, film and performance arts, there is something for everyone to enjoy and take part in."

Culture capitals at a glance

    Istanbul: 12 million inhabitants
  Essen: 580 000 i.
    Pécs: 160 000


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