The European Capital of Culture 2026
Oulu has been selected as European Capital of Culture for 2026. Based on a recommendation given by a European panel of experts, the Ministry of Education and Culture designated the City of Oulu as a 2026 European Capital of Culture on 13 October 2021. The other Capital of Culture in 2026 will be Trenčín in Slovakia. The European Capitals of Culture (ECOC) is one of the best-known cultural actions of the European Union. ECOC receives support from the EU’s Creative Europe programme. According to a Government Resolution, the central government in Finland will provide EUR 20 million to finance the Oulu Capital of Culture project.
The Oulu2026 project is themed around Cultural Climate Change. The project’s main goals are to inject new energy into the region by means of arts and culture and to meet cross-border demands through cooperation. The project plan covers 39 municipalities in Northern Finland. Clusters of creative industries will be created in Oulu and partner municipalities, cultural heritage will be harnessed more extensively and made more visible, and numerous projects combining arts and culture advocating sustainable development, tourism, technology and science will be launched.
The body responsible for preparing and implementing the Oulu2026 project is Oulu Cultural Foundation, established by the City of Oulu on 7 October 2021 and registered on 1 December 2021. The Center for Cultural Policy Research Cupore and the University of Oulu will carry out an impact assessment of the project and produce new cultural policy research data.
Oulu2026 will have an extensive impact on Northern Finland. Leveraging art and culture, the project will help increase the vitality of the region, and create jobs and attractive living environments especially for young people, encouraging them to stay in the local area. The project's outcomes will help regions and cities to become more culturally, economically and socially sustainable. The European Capital of Culture projects generally have a significant impact on the image, tourism and employment of cities and regions.
The Oulu2026 programme already includes 110 projects. In addition, an open call for the We are Culture programme will be held in 2024–2025. The cultural programme's key message is Cultural Climate Change with three main themes: Brave Hinterland, Wild City and Cool Contrasts.
The programme's largest projects are Boost! (2023–2024) and Equal Oulu2026 (2023–2025).
Expert panel to monitor and support the preparations for the Oulu Capital of Culture project in 2021–2025
The European panel of experts, which also served at the ECOC selection stage, monitors project preparation and provides support and advice to Oulu until the start of the title year. The panel has ten European experts appointed by the Union institutions and up to two national experts appointed by the Member State. The Member State may also appoint an observer to monitoring meetings. The Ministry of Education and Culture has appointed Riitta Vanhatalo and Kai Amberla to the panel.
The Commission will invite the expert panel and designated cities to three monitoring meetings. The first meeting was held on 14 September 2022 (three years before the year of the title). The second will be held in May or June 2024 (18 months before the year) and the third in autumn 2025 (two months before the year begins). At the meetings, the panel monitors the progress of the preparations and gives advice to the cities on how to develop a high-quality cultural programme and an effective strategy. After each meeting, the panel will issue a progress report on the preparations and advice on the next steps. The Commission may ask panel members to visit to the new host cities.
The central government will contribute to the Oulu2026 finances. On 27 January 2022, the Government adopted Resolution OKM/2022/5 on contributing EUR 20 million to the project funds between 2020 and 2026.
A precondition for the funding is that the City of Oulu finances the project in 2020–2026 by a sum that at least matches the sum allocated in central government funding. The project will require the participation of a large number of regional, sub-regional and local stakeholders, who are prepared to inject their own resources into the project too. Under the Oulu2026 programme, the central government funding must benefit all municipalities participating in the programme. Central government support for the project will be awarded to Oulu Cultural Foundation in the form of special grants under the Act on Discretionary Government Grants.
European Capitals of Culture 2026 action
The European Capitals of Culture action is based on Decision No 445/2014/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council. Finland will implement the decision for the first time for the 2026 ECOC because the selection procedure for the 2011 ECOC was based on the previous EU decision.
There are two or three ECOCs each year. Two ECOCs are selected from two different EU Member States. By the above-mentioned decision, the Member States agreed on a calendar according to which the countries host the title. So now the cities in the countries, and not the countries themselves, compete for the title. The selection process takes place in two stages and is carried out by a panel of independent experts. Every third year, a third European Capital of Culture is nominated from an EU candidate country or a potential candidate country.
The 2023 European Capitals of Culture will be Veszprém (Hungary), Timisoara (Romania) and Elefsina (Greece). The title years of Romania and Greece were postponed from 2021 to 2023 by Decision (EU) 2020/2229 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 December 2020 amending the ECOC decision mentioned above.
Finland will host the European Capital of Culture for the third time in 2026. Helsinki was one of the nine ECOCs in 2000 and Turku was the 2011 Capital of Culture together with Tallinn.
ECOC draws attention to the importance of cities as centres of cultural life. The city hosting the title can develop its cultural, social and economic life. ECOCs highlight the richness and diversity of European cultures and the common cultural characteristics of Europeans. It also fosters the impact of culture on the development of cities.
Links to other websites
European capitals of culture - 30 years (Publications Office of the European Union)