On November 20 in 1995, the ministers responsible for the Cultural Affairs in the European Union issued their decision concerning the Cultural Capital for 2000. The nominees included – taking into account the special symbolic significance of the year 2000 – all nine applicants. Besides Helsinki, these included Avignon, Bergen, Bologna, Brussels, Cracow, Prague, Reykjavik and Santiago de Compostella.
At first, the decision disappointed the applicants. Helsinki City Council proposed that Helsinki abandon the project and apply for the title alone in 2002. An overwhelming majority, however, wanted to pursue the preparations on the basis of the EU decision.
In April 1996, an extensive Capitals of Culture project seminar for key figures in the field was organized. The seminar sought to find innovations, development projects, funding alternatives, administrative models and institutional partners that could be used in the realization of the project.
The EU Culture Ministers had urged the nominee cities to co-ordinate their activities and agree on a joint theme for the event. Without delay, Helsinki began to establish contacts with the other Cities of Culture for the year 2000.
On the basis of preparations made by Helsinki, a co-operation agreement between the nine European Cities of Culture 2000 was signed in Finlandia Hall on 6 September, 1996. The agreement designated a theme for each City of Culture. Helsinki’s theme was “Knowledge, technology and the future”.