SOFIA, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- A glamorous show with the participation of over 1,500 performers marked the beginning of activities of the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv as European Capital of Culture for 2019 on Saturday evening.
"I am deeply convinced that the key word in the success of the European Union (EU) is the word 'together', the same word that Plovdiv chose as a motto during the time when it will be the European Capital of Culture," European Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel said at the launch ceremony.
"Today, Plovdiv sends a very strong message to Europe and the world, a message of unity around a core value, which the culture is," Gabriel said.
She noted that Plovdiv had a millennial history with a strong European dimension, combining unique cultural elements from the Balkan Peninsula and whole Europe.
Plovdiv showed that culture was essential for strengthening the European identity, creating a sense of common belonging, and shaping tomorrow's Europe, Gabriel said.
Plovdiv Mayor Ivan Totev said in turn that this would be an unforgettable year with hundreds of events, and thousands of artists, authors and guests would visit Plovdiv -- the first ever Bulgarian city to be chosen as European Capital of Culture.
Plovdiv will hold the title of European Capital of Culture for 2019 together with the Italian city of Matera.
Melina Mercouri, the then Greek Minister of Culture, took the initiative to start the European Capital of Culture in 1985. It has since become one of the most high-profile cultural initiatives in Europe.