Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna and Veliko Turnovo have been shortlisted out of an initial list of eight to be named European Capital of Culture when Bulgaria has its turn in 2019.
The shortlist was announced at a news conference at the Ministry of Culture of December 12 2013.
The cities and towns of Bourgas, Rousse, Gabrovo and Shoumen did not make the cut, which was decided by a jury made up of six Bulgarians and seven people from elsewhere in Europe.
Cities are judged on their proposed programmes, with organisers saying that it is important that the proposed programme is sustainable, feasible and will stimulate the long-term cultural and social development of the city.
The final selection from this shortlist of candidate cities will be made in autumn 2014 and the formal adoption of the decision naming the Bulgarian city to be European Capital of Culture 2019 will be in May 2015 at a meeting of the Council of the European Union.
Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: “I am very pleased to see that eight Bulgarian cities took part in the competition to be the first European Capital of Culture in Bulgaria.
“I warmly congratulate the four cities which have been nominated following the first round of the competition,” Vassiliou said.
Just being shortlisted for the title can result in significant cultural, economic and social benefits for the cities concerned, provided that their bid is part of a longer-term culture-led development strategy, she said.
“The Capitals are an opportunity for Europeans to learn more about each other and to enjoy their shared history and values: in other words, to experience the feeling of belonging to the same European community. I encourage all of the pre-selected cities to make the best of this project.”
Following Marseille (France) and Košice (Slovakia) this year, Umeå (Sweden) and Riga (Latvia) will be European Capitals of Culture in 2014, Mons (Belgium) and Plzen (Czech Republic) in 2015, Wrocław (Poland) and Donastia-San Sebastián (Spain) in 2016, Aarhus (Denmark) and Paphos (Cyprus) in 2017 and Valletta (Malta) in 2018. Leeuwarden (Netherlands) has been proposed as European Capital of Culture in 2018.