The three cities have contrasting characters culturally, historically and geographically. In the south west is the port city of Liepāja, in the south east Latvia's second-largest city Daugavpils, and in the northern forests the city of Valmiera.
Having submitted their final applications the three cities' bids will now be evaluated by a panel comprising ten international and two national jury members on the following sets of criteria: contribution to a long-term strategy, European dimension, cultural and artistic content, performance, public involvement and governance. The commission will pay city visits in early May, and final presentations will be made on 9 and 10 May before the winner is announced.
The European Capital of Culture initiative was launched in Greece in 1985. The initiative aims to protect and promote cultural diversity in Europe and to raise citizens' awareness of their common cultural space while promoting the contribution of culture to the long-term development of cities in line with their strategies and priorities.
Over the years the title has also been a useful springboard for regional development and regeneration. Having started with just one city possessing the title each year, it later became two cities, and in 2022 there are actually three: Kaunas in Lithuania, Esch in Luxembourg and Novi Sad in Serbia (cities in EU candidate countries, potential candidates or members of the European Free Trade Association party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area (so-called EFTA/EEA countries) can also hold the title in 2022, 2024, 2028, 2030 and 2033).
In 2027, the winning city in Latvia will share the laurels with a city in Portugal.
"The status of the European Capital of Culture allows us to position a city of Latvia and, consequently, our entire country in the European cultural space. This status can both give a positive impetus to the rebirth of the city's cultural strategy and bring new fruits to business, tourism, the economy and social life," said Dace Vilsone, State Secretary at the Ministry of Culture.
Back in 2014, Rīga was one of Europe's cultural capitals, along with Umea in Sweden.
In the first round of the competition, nine Latvian cities - Cēsis, Daugavpils, Jelgava, Jēkabpils, Jūrmala, Kuldīga, Liepāja, Ogre and Valmiera all submitted their applications. After three days of online presentations in early July 2021, an international and independent panel of experts nominated Daugavpils, Jūrmala, Liepāja and Valmiera for further participation in the competition.
However, in late 2021, Jūrmala announced its withdrawal from the competition citing the high costs and uncertainty over the availability of co-financing, leaving the remaining trio to duke it out.