BRUSSELS, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- Four Bulgarian cities Plovdiv, Sofia, Varna and Veliko Turnovo were short-listed for the European Capital of Culture 2019, announced the European Commission (EC) Thursday.
"Once this recommendation has been confirmed by Bulgaria, the cities have until next summer to complete their applications," the EC said in a press release.
The selection panel will meet again in the third quarter of 2014 to recommend which city to be the European Capital of Culture.
"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, " said European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Androulla Vassiliou.
"I warmly congratulate the four cities which have been nominated following the first round of the competition," said Vassiliou.
"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 added in a statement.
Vassiliou noted that 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.
In accordance with the Decision of the European Parliament and Council of Ministers which sets the criteria for the European Capital of Culture, Bulgaria and Italy are the two Member States hosting the event in 2019.
According to the current system for designating the European Capitals of Culture, the selection has two rounds: a pre-selection round, following which a shortlist of candidate cities is drawn up, and a final selection round nine months later. The selected cities are then officially designated by the Council of Ministers of the European Union.
Each year, cities chosen as European Capitals of Culture, in 2013 Marseille and Kosice, provide living proof of the richness and diversity of European cultures. Started in 1985, more than 40 cities have been designated European Capitals of Culture, and the initiative has become one of the most prestigious and high-profile cultural events in Europe.