Melina Mercouri brought fire and passion to everything she did; from gracing the stage and screen in the early part of her life, to fighting the fascist junta that took control of Greece in 1967, to campaigning for the protection and promotion of culture in Europe as a politician.
Life and times
Melina Mercouri had been a leading theatre actor in Greece before becoming an international film star with her award-winning performance in ‘Never on Sunday’. She became politicised by the 1967 coup d’état in Greece and spent the following years campaigning around the world for the removal of the colonels’ junta. After democracy was restored in 1974, Mercouri returned home to begin a political career. She became Greece’s longest serving Minister of Culture and in her role as a champion of Greek and European culture had many achievements, especially the creation of the European Capital of Culture initiative.
A vision for Europe
As Greek Minister of Culture, in 1983, Mercouri organised a meeting with the culture ministers of the other nine EU Member States during the first Greek Presidency of the Council.
She encouraged the other ministers to join her in efforts to increase cultural awareness across Europe. This was the first of a regular series of meetings between Europe’s Ministers of Culture, which continue to this day.
Melina Mercouri talks to the press ahead of the launch of the first European Capital of Culture in Athens, 1985.
More about Melina Mercouri’s life, work and contribution to the European project