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In 2010, Pécs aimed to use the European Capital of Culture programme, managed by the European Commission’s Education and Culture DG, to restructure its local economy from a former industrial base to a new culture-based approach. To achieve this goal, the ERDF co-financed five large-scale investment projects – costing around €120 million – that were complemented by an enormous number of cultural activities concentrated in the year 2010. The initiative boosted tourist interest, but its financial sustainability remains in doubt.

Executive summary

In 2010, Pécs was the European Capital of Culture (simultaneously with Essen and Istanbul). The city was declared the winner of the Hungarian competition for the title in October 2005 on the basis of a fabulous programme proposal that aimed at ‘changing the scale’ of culture in the city – making it the driving force of economic recovery.
The plans contained a new vision for encouraging the cultural life of the city through a series of large-scale infrastructure investments, including five key facilities: the Kodály Centre(a concert and conference hall), the Regional Library and Centre for Learning, the Zsolnay cultural quarter, the Great Exhibition Hall and the reconstruction of public museums, and finally the reconstruction of public spaces in eight neighbourhoods including the city centre. The infrastructure investments cost approximately €120 million, of which nearly €100 million came from the ERDF.

The implementation of this ambitious plan – which far exceeded the city’s basic needs for 2010 – led to a series of conflicts which diluted the original spirit of the programme during the implementation period in fields such as democratisation and decentralisation. Meanwhile, with centralised management that operated outside City Hall, all the investments were completed between November 2009 and April 2012 to very high architectural standards. However none of the cultural buildings were ready for operation by the beginning of the important year of 2010.

Despite the incomplete facilities, the year 2010 was full of cultural programmes consisting of approximately 5 000 events and resulting in a 25-27% increase in tourist nights spent in the city. It was an outstanding year, but what has remained both opens up new potential for the city and raises a number of serious question marks:

  • On the one hand, the new cultural buildings and infrastructure are very popular among local residents, but on the other hand their purchasing capacity seems insufficient to sustain the new investments financially. As a result, the municipality and the University of Pécs have had to assume additional costs, as at this stage state financing is not involved in the operation – despite former promises.
  • The new buildings and the renovated public spaces have considerably improved the urban environment and contributed to the city’s significant architectural heritage, thus increasing its attractiveness as a tourist destination. However, this still needs to be backed up by additional private investments to provide a complete range of necessary services (e.g. completed airport, hotels, wellness and spa facilities).

The operational cost of the new cultural infrastructure had the effect of diverting funds from existing public services. However there are signs that new and innovative operational methods and forms of cooperation are evolving in the operation of the new infrastructure which may contribute both to sustainability and also to the optimal operation of the new cultural investments.

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Technical information


Pécs2010, European Capital of Culture

Member State and Region

Hungary, South Transdanubia, Pécs

Duration of project

4 years (19.12.2008 – 12.08.2012)


Total budget: 121 775 402 € - ERDF contribution: 99 963 574 €

Cohesion Policy Objective


Managing Authority

National Development Agency, Managing Authority of Regional Operational Programmes

Intermediate Body: Regional Development Agency of the South Transdanubia Region

CCI nr of OP

2007HU161PO011 – OP ‘South Transdanubia’


Péter Merza, director

Pécsi Városfejlesztési Nonprofit Kft. (Pécs City Development Company)

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Urban renewal, Culture