The European Capital of Culture, which was inaugurated upon the initiative of the late Melina Mercouri, is one of the most popular and successful European institutions and has been considered as a cultural celebration that promotes both the particular cultural character of each country and the common aspects of our European cultural identity. One Greek city will have the opportunity to be enhanced as the centre of the cultural life of Europe, after its designation as a European Capital of Culture.
Our nation, always supporter of the European idea, embraced the institution founded on the ideals of solidarity and cooperation, by hosting the first European Capital of Culture. Nowadays that Europe needs a new vision, culture can be a driving force to inspire, to raise awareness and mobilise people towards a new direction, with emphasis to the respect of human rights, democracy and European values. It constitutes an important tool for the development of a new but profoundly historical Europe.
Culture generates wealth both symbolically and materially. It is a vehicle for local and regional development, contributing to growth, employment, dialogue among peoples, tourism and entrepreneurship, acting as an antidote to the economic crisis of our era. It revitalises the cities, revealing the creative potential of its citizens and ultimately forming a new identity.
Our goal is to place the citizens at the centre of cultural activity. To become hosts but also protagonists in our cities, to shape the cultural programme of our cities and to participate in it.
On the occasion of the pan-European and international scale events which will be organised, an important challenge is to unite our forces in order to promote the most creative aspects of our cultural heritage and our contemporary artistic creation at the international cultural scene, encouraging synergies at an international level.
I would like to wish every success to those cities participating in the bidding process and I hope that they will exploit the advantages of the institution, for the benefit of society and its citizens.