Every year since 1985 a different European city is chosen to represent and celebrate the cultural diversity of the region. During a one year period, the capital of culture is meant to organize a series of cultural events that involve the local community and invite visitors to appreciate the richness and diversity of European cultures.
The Council of the European Union chooses the city designated to celebrate European cultural ties and foster cooperation between cultural operators from the host city and other locations. Since 2011, two cities from different countries are chosen each year to be the cultural capitals of Europe.
The year-long series of events organized by the host cities are meant to represent the role that those cities have played in the history of European culture, in addition to demonstrating their current involvement in the regions' artistic and cultural life.
The 2013 opening ceremony takes place in Marseille, France, whilst a week later the twin host city of Košice in Slovakia will join in the festivities and become the second European Capital of Culture of the year.
The launch of Marseille-Provence 2013 will be marked with four festive events, starting with a public opening ceremony in Marseille attended by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. Other events include the opening of a contemporary art exhibition in Aix-en-Provence, a treasure hunt in Marseille-Provence and a fireworks display in Arles, which will close the opening weekend.
In autumn 2012 the European Commission awarded the Melina Mercouri Prize, worth €1.5 million, to the two 2013 Capitals in recognition of the quality of their preparations and for meeting the commitments they made at the selection stage.
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