17/12/2014 Minister Humphreys announces competition for European Capital of Culture 2020

  • Minister secures Government agreement to hold open competition for Irish city to host European Capital of Culture 2020
  • Opportunity only arises every 15 years
  • Designation will provide opportunity to showcase Irish culture and boost tourism
  • Winning city will benefit from increased cultural profile

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, has today (Wednesday) announced an open competition for the selection of an Irish city as European Capital of Culture 2020. Under the programme, two cities are designated a Capital of Culture each year. In 2020, Ireland will share the designation with Croatia.

The competition will be organised by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.  Decisions on the short listing and selection of the European Capital of Culture will be made by an International Panel of ten experts appointed by the European Institutions. Ireland also has the option of appointing two individuals to this Panel; Minister Humphreys intends to invite submissions for these positions in the New Year.

Interested cities have 10 months in which to make an application.  A shortlist will then be drawn up, and the shortlisted cities will have a further 9 months in which to develop and refine their applications.  The winning city will be named in mid to late 2016, leaving at least three years to prepare for the year of designation in 2020. The European Union provides funding of €1.5 million for the winning city by way of the Melina Mercouri prize.

Speaking today Minister Humphreys said:

“The European Capital of Culture provides Ireland with a wonderful opportunity to showcase our culture and all that it entails. The opportunity to host the Capital of Culture only comes around every 15 years or so; indeed, we are not expected to be offered this chance again until 2034. So I am delighted to have secured the support of my Government colleagues to announce the competition, which will run over the next year and a half.

“I know there is already considerable interest from a number of Irish cities, and I have no doubt that the competition will be intense. For the winning city, 2020 will be a year when it can revel in the European spotlight. The designation will allow the cultural profile of the winning city to be promoted at EU level and internationally. This will have a positive impact on economic activity, jobs and tourism.

“The 2014 Irish City of Culture is drawing to a close this month in Limerick. It has been widely acknowledged that the year of events has been a major success, which I saw for myself when I visited the city in October. There had been an expectation that the next Irish City of Culture would be held in 2018. However, due to the level of Exchequer funding which would be required, and so as not to dilute the importance of the European Capital of Culture in 2020, it has been decided to defer the next Irish City of Culture.

“The level of Exchequer funding needed for the successful host city in 2020 is not yet finalised. I have provided the Government with an indicative figure of €15 million, and once the nomination process has concluded firmer proposals on the level of Exchequer funding required will be brought to Government. It is expected that roughly 60% of the funding will be required in 2019, with the balance in 2020. However, I do not envisage the Exchequer providing more than half of the cost of the event, and any city which vies for the title must have the capacity to put together a strong funding package at local level.

“A dedicated section is being set up on my Department’s website, where information and application forms can be accessed. My Department is also liaising with the European Commission, which will hold an information day in Dublin in January. I would like to wish all cities planning to bid for the coveted title of European Capital of Culture 2020 all the very best.”

Media queries: 

Press and Information Office

Tel: 087 6737338 / (01) 631 3807 / 3838 / 3848 (direct)

E-Mail: press.office@ahg.gov.ie

Web site: www.chg.gov.ie

Twitter: @DeptAHG


Notes to Editors:

To access the dedicated section of the Department’s website for the European Capital of Culture Competition, please see here:



History of the Capital of Culture:

The European City of Culture, which was an initiative of Melina Mercouri, the then Greek Minister for Culture, commenced in 1985 when it was hosted by Athens.

The idea involved the selection of one city each year, which was awarded the title “European City of Culture” to promote the cultural importance of European cities.

From 1985 to 2004, each designation was decided by Intergovernmental Decision by the Council of Ministers.  Dublin was European City of Culture in 1991.


From 2005 the title was changed to European Capital of Culture.

Selection panels of national and international experts were introduced to assess the applications against a specific set of criteria.

While the event was primarily restricted to cities in EU countries, cities from non-member European States were allowed to bid for the title in particular years.

Ireland hosted the European Capital of Culture in 2005 when Cork held the title.


European Cities that have hosted the event to date have provided a cross-section of national and international events.  Each city has had a different focus and there has been a variety of themes and approaches with music, drama, dance and the fine arts at the core.  From 2008, two countries have hosted the Capital of Culture each year.


Expert Panel and criteria:

An Expert Panel will be set up to examine plans submitted by applicant cities and make a recommendation on the city to be designated.

The Panel will be made up of 10 experts; 3 to be nominated by the European Commission, 3 by the European Parliament, 3 by the European Council and 1 by the Committee of the Regions. Ireland has the option of nominating up to 2 further experts as members of the panel.


The Expert Panel will measure the plans submitted against six criteria:

  • Contribution to long term strategy: the plan for the Capital of Culture should contribute to the long term cultural, economic and social development of the city.
  • European dimension: the plan should show strong cultural connectivity with Europe
  • Cultural and artistic dimension: a high quality of cultural and artistic content is required
  • Capacity to deliver: there should be evidence that there is broad political support and adequate infrastructure in place
  • Outreach: there should be a strategy for audience development and community involvement
  • Management: budgetary, management and delivery structures must be robust


Next steps:

Following the Government agreement to Ireland’s participation in the European Capital of Culture 2020, the application and selection process will get underway immediately.

The European Commission will host an Information Day in Dublin for interested cities on 12th January 2015.

A dedicated section of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht website is going live today (https://www.chg.gov.ie/arts/culture/european-city-of-culture/) where application forms and information can be accessed, with a closing date for applications of October 17th 2015.

The Expert Panel will assess bids and draw up a shortlist.

The shortlisted cities will then be given a further 9 months to refine their proposals before meeting with the Panel again.

Ireland will make its designation based on the Panel’s final recommendation.

The designation is expected to be announced in July/September 2016.


Additional information about the legislation approving the European Capital of Culture Action:

EU legislation to approve the new European Capital of Culture Action was finalised on 4th May 2014, following the publication of the Decision in the Official Journal of the European Union on 3rd May 2014.

A decision of the European Parliament on 16th April 2014 and of the European Council on 24th March 2014 established a new Community Action for the European Capital of Culture for the years 2020 to 2033 inclusive.

The decision has adopted a rotational system to allow the designation of two cities from different Member States for each year from 2020 to 2033.

Ireland and Croatia are the two Member States in which a Capital of Culture may be designated in 2020.

Among the citizens of the EU, the European Capital of Culture is one of the best-known EU interventions due to its visibility.

The EU requires a 6-year lead-in time for application, development of plans, selection process, designation and preparation before the start of the Capital of Culture year of designation.

Ireland and Croatia have been granted exemptions from this timeline, as the regulation was only agreed in April 2014.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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