European Capital of Culture

Cultural Policy Conditions within the EU initiative, using the examples of RUHR.2010 and Marseille-Provence 2013

by Kristina Jacobsen (Author)
©2022 Thesis 136 Pages


The «European Capital of Culture» initiative offered dazzling programmes at the RUHR.2010 and Marseille-Provence 2013 locations; these programmes also claimed to have cultural-political sustainability. The study examines to what extent the concepts of the two cities contributed to processes of cultural policy transformation at the locations in terms of sustainable governance structures in the cultural sector. It also shows how intrinsic identities affected a culturally shaped transformation of the two sites. The need to reform the ECoC initiative is also discussed.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • 1. Introduction
  • 1.1 About the context of and justification for the “European Capital of Culture” initiative
  • 1.2 The genesis of the European Capitals of Culture
  • 1.3 About the motivations of the ECoC stakeholders
  • 1.4 The structure of this study
  • 2. Cultural governance in the European multi-level system
  • 2.1 Reasons for selecting the governance approach
  • 2.2 Governance in EU (cultural) policy
  • 2.3 Governance as a principle of cultural policy action in Germany
  • 2.4 Governance as a steering principle within the ECoC initiative
  • 3. Transformative cultural policy
  • 3.1 What is transformative cultural policy?
  • 3.2 Approaches to transformative cultural policy in ECoCs
  • 3.3 Sustainable transformation
  • 4. The intrinsic cultural logic of cities
  • 4.1 The theory of the intrinsic logic of cities
  • 4.2 The intrinsic cultural logic of ECoC locations
  • 5. The research instrument: Expert interviews
  • 5.1 State of research and methodological approach/Grounded Theory
  • 5.2 The necessity and importance of expert interviews
  • 5.3 The interview partners
  • 6. RUHR.2010
  • 6.1 Transformation in concrete terms: Dispositions, conceptions and intrinsic cultural logic
  • 6.2 Perspectives of cultural governance in the aftermath of the ECoC RUHR.2010
  • 6.3 The ECoC as a location factor for city marketing
  • 6.4 Preliminary conclusion I: Criticism and lessons learnt
  • 6.5 Preliminary conclusion II: After-effects and needs after RUHR.2010
  • 7. Excursus: The role of urban and rural areas within the European Capital of Culture Initiative
  • 8. Marseille-Provence 2013
  • 8.1 Historical, geopolitical and social conditions in Marseille and the surrounding area
  • 8.2 The ECoC as a driver of metropolitanisation and tourism promotion
  • 8.3 Governance, intrinsic logic and obstinacy of the Marseillais in the ECoC context
  • 8.4 Capital of Culture – by all and for all?33
  • 8.5 Preliminary conclusion I: Sustainable transformation and cultural policy perspective
  • 8.6 Preliminary conclusion II: Quo vadis transformation?
  • 9. Conclusion/Theses
  • 9.1 Concluding remarks
  • 9.2 Gains and future tasks of RUHR.2010 and MP 2013
  • 9.3 Theses
  • 9.4 Summary and outlook
  • Bibliography
  • Afterword
  • Bibliography
  • Series index

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Prof. Wolfgang Schneider

The “European Capital of Culture” (ECoC) initiative, launched in 1984, has become more and more of a driving force during the course of its development. During the bidding process, but even more so after the title is awarded, the responsible actors enthuse about a comprehensive transformation that encourages a variety of positive effects. The initiative has now evolved into a far-reaching programme that triggers new culturally driven development strategies in the participating cities.

In recent years, there have been an increasing number of publications on the transformative potential of cultural policy. In this context, transformation is mostly understood as a comprehensive change and realignment of structures. In terms of transformation, cultural policy is about the social accompaniment of processes, the role of artists and cultural mediators, and sustainable concepts of cultural promotion of infrastructure, project management and cultural education. The European Union’s cultural policy also attaches special importance to art and culture within the framework of its identity discourse – although it still sees itself as an economically oriented, supranational organisation. The ECoC initiative is nevertheless a piece of the mosaic in the complex web of European interests.

Criteria for transforming cities and society

“The ECoC initiative offers citizens a framework for reflecting on the role of their city in Europe, to confirm it and to deal with their identity on a small scale (in the surrounding area) and on a large scale (Europe) through artistic activities,” writes Kristina M. Jacobsen in the introduction to her PhD thesis. Her intention is to verify how the award criteria led to successful activities which transformed the city and urban society in a sustainable way.

Local politics often place great emphasis on the image and marketing of a city, the increase in the number of tourists, new jobs in the cultural and creative industries, as well as other start-up effects, whereas Kristina Jacobsen focuses on the intrinsic value of culture as it is described in the latest EU decision of 2014 on European cultural policy. Using the examples of RUHR.2010 and Marseille-Provence (MP 2013), she asks about the ←11 | 12→cultural-political dispositions, to what extent the concepts of the two Capitals of Culture contribute to cultural-political transformation processes at the sites and about the perspectives for further development.

The theoretical framework of the study is provided by the UNESCO Declaration on Cultural Policy of 1982 in Mexico City. At the same time, the so-called New Cultural Policy of the old Federal Republic of Germany emerged with the understanding of cultural policy as social policy, as well as the emphasis on cultural governance, which is also applied in the European multi-level system, as the report of the Enquête Commission “Culture in Germany” of the German Bundestag from 2007 showed. In this context, Kristina Jacobsen also discusses the informal and non-institutionalised regulations and formats of governance. The fact that an active role is ascribed to civil society fits in with the idea of the ECoC initiative.

Cultural policy challenges

The instrument of cultural development planning is being upgraded as a framework for a structural and procedural control system. Kristina Jacobsen dedicates herself to transformative cultural policy, listing the cultural policy challenges of demographic change, diversity and pluralisation of society, as well as digitalisation and globalisation. The involvement of culture is particularly emphasised: “The far-reaching transformation of a city, such as Marseille as a cultural tourism location, would not have been possible if it had been attempted by the cultural institutions alone.”

With the theory of the intrinsic logic of cities (after Martina Löw), Kristina Jacobsen provides an approach to understanding cities with their social phenomena as a whole. She is concerned with local cultural identities, with socio-cultural specifics, with interdisciplinary and comparative research. She states: “The ECoC initiative can act as an occasion and a means to promote and contextualise urban development projects, as well as to reflect on the individual specificities of the location and their significance for the future of the city.”

“Change through Culture – Culture through Change”

The ambitions and reality of both ECoC years are shown, examples of programmes and projects are analysed, reflected upon and, fortunately, ←12 | 13→also criticised. The motto of RUHR.2010 was “Change through Culture – Culture through Change” and was intended to trigger the desire for the development of an entire region. In terms of cultural governance, this seems to have succeeded. In this context, Kristina Jacobsen mentions the many cooperation projects with partners in the city and the region. Local Heroes turned one of the 53 other cities of the region into a Capital of Culture every week for a whole year. The association of 20 art museums and a network of 11 municipal theatres also served decentralised distribution. An Instrument for Every Child was a contribution to musical education that is still supported by music schools and primary schools to this day. The Emscher Art Trail remains, as does an annual cultural conference and the European Centre for Creative Economy (ecce). Almost 5 million Euros of state funding are permanently available for the sustainability of the cultural policy developments initiated by the ECoC initiative.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (December)
ECoC initiative EU cultural policy Cultural governance Intrinsic cultural logic cultural transformation process transformative cultural policy Bidding process
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 136 pp., 1 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Kristina Jacobsen (Author)

Kristina Marion Jacobsen studied music, German and European studies in Heidelberg-Mannheim, Hamburg and Berlin, and completed her doctorate in cultural studies at the University of Hildesheim. She worked as a research associate in the German Bundestag and subsequently as the managing director of the European Studies Programme of the three major universities in Berlin. At the Department of Cultural Policy at the University of Hildesheim, she co-founded the European Capital of Culture Laboratory (ECoC LAB), within the framework of which she wrote this study, among other publications.


Title: European Capital of Culture