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Ecoc 2026, discovering Slovak candidate cities

Bratislava Bratislava Photo by Andrej Zeman / Pexels

In 2026 the title of European Capital of Culture will be assigned to Oulu, in Finland, and to a Slovak city. Nitra, Trenčín and Žilina- Beskids are the three cities shortlisted in the competition in Slovakia. The winning city is expected to be announced in December 2021. In meantime, let’s discover the projects concepts the three cities are working on.

Trenčín 2026 - Cultivating Curiosity

Cultivating Curiosity is Trenčín’s concept and philosophy. It is based on three programme strands: Respecting the Common Ground, Creating the Playground, Opening towards Unknown Grounds. The plan is to combine programmes that interconnect cultural and natural heritage with current challenges and visions.

By Cultivating Curiosity people will reach their vision to make Trenčín one of the authentic European cultural hubs and a blooming place for both citizens and visitors. By Cultivating Curiosity people can trigger creative and design thinking, reach their goals, and in the long term, make Trenčín a great place to live. Curiosity is the starting point of engagement, interest and action. It is an antidote to apathy. Curiosity ignites knowledge and precedes all creativity. It is a renewable resource, available to all.

Trenčín has an interesting history and plenty of hidden potential. But Trenčín really needs to wake up and get moving. Just like many middle-sized cities in post-communist countries, Trenčín is struggling to find its contemporary character and drive. The programme want to create an environment where young people and professionals will be happy to invest their dreams and energy in Trenčín. To become livable and attractive, Trenčín needs to offer a lot more to the everyday life of permanent citizens, and to potential nomads and tourists, with a spectrum of business and work possibilities.

Here the website

Žilina- Beskids -  Window of Opportunities

The city chose Window of Opportunities as the project’s tagline, a credo that precisely captures and communicates its current state of mind. Originally a NASA phrase indicating the spatial and temporal limitations for the launch of a rocket, it eschews alibistic fatalism in favour of the idea of a certain momentum which must be produced and sustained. This emphasises a proactive, constructive, problem-solving approach, and encourages grand visions and pursuit of long-term objectives.

Window of Opportunities also refers to a critical period in child development when specific vital neurological functions must be acquired. In this sense, the concept captures the position the city is  in and its aim to offer multiple opportunities to citizens and local communities for participation, learning and growth. The candidacy for the European Capital of Culture 2026 is an opportunity for the city and the surrounding region to deal with the complex legacy of the past and define its future together with its citizens and its creative forces.

For the generation who bears the experience of the transition of 1989, “culture as a driving force of change” is not a mere statement but rather an expression of a generational formative experience. 20 years ago, hardly anyone would have expected Žilina could once aspire to be a European Capital of Culture; extremism was on the rise, while local democracy was in deep crisis. Yet, since then, Žilina’s story has been one of creative resistance and the rise of civil society in addressing those issues. A momentum of change has been created in Žilina and people need to use this opportunity to propel themselves to the future.

Here the website.

Nitra - Breaking point

The concept of Nitra’s programme is Breaking point. When talking about Nitra, people realised that not only is it at a breaking point, it can also be best described as one – both in time and space. Geographically, Nitra lies between lowlands and highlands, between fertile fields and impenetrable nature.

Ethnically, between the south where the Hungarian ethnic minority strives and the north where it is absent. Socially, between progressive and prosperous west and traditionalist and resilient east. The times we live in are also a breaking point. The ongoing pandemic makes people question the ideas of social interdependence and culture’s ability to connect people as human beings.

The climate crisis urges  to re-evaluate the relationship to the environment people are a part of. The post-factual era calls for cultivated dialogue as a way of searching clarity and equality; the brain-drain and migrant influx for broadening the concept of people identity. Nitra can be the space where solutions are attempted. But how exactly? By Nitra being the Breaking Point where culture and art are used as ways to underpin a process of change.

Here the website.






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