At Melina’s invitation, top artists including Leonard Bernstein, Ingmar Bergman, Mstislav Rostropovich, Pina Bausch and Giorgio Strehler visited Greece in 1985 to join the celebrations of Athens being declared the first European Capital of Culture.
Two years earlier, in 1983, during a meeting of ten Member States of the European Union, the Greek Minister of Culture had exhorted her counterparts to support raising cultural awareness across Europe. Her efforts culminated in the establishment of the Capital of Culture institution.
Entrancing performances, such as Peter Stein’s eight-hour production of Aeschylus’ ‘Oresteia’ and Peter Brook’s production of the ‘Mahabharata’ , and incendiary concerts such as those given by The Clash and Nina Hagen, affirmed Melina’s deep conviction that “the soul of society”, culture, creativity, “are no less important than commerce, the economy and technology”.
Melina herself had laid the groundwork for Thessaloniki to be declared European Capital of Culture in 1997, four years after she had passed away. This was followed by Patra in 2006 and Eleusis in 2023. Since 2010, the European Commission has honoured the memory of the woman who inspired the institution in the form of a prize presented to each Capital of Culture.