The Process

The process is competitive and Galway had to compete with Dublin, Limerick and the Three Sisters (Wexford, Waterford and Kilkenny) to win the European Capital of Culture 2020. Galway along with Rijecka in Croatia will each host the European Capital of Culture in the year 2020.


Understanding the criteria

The Decision sets out the six categories of criteria used in the selection process. The categories have equal value as experience has shown that all six are required to ensure a successful ECOC.

They must be seen by cities as a useful tool to conscientiously prepare not only when bidding for the title but also when planning the title-year. They are here to help them make the most of their candidacy and – whatever the outcome of the competition – learn and benefit from this experience.

This section takes each category and offers guidance based on recent ECOC experiences and Panel reports. The Decision gives clear factors to be taken into account for each category of criteria.


A: Contribution to the long-term cultural strategy

  • ƒ that a cultural strategy for the candidate city, which covers the [ECoC] action and includes plans for sustaining the cultural activities beyond the year of the title, is in place at the time of its application ƒ
  • the plans to strengthen the capacity of the cultural and creative sectors, including developing long-term links between the cultural, economic and social sectors in the candidate city ƒ
  • the envisaged long-term cultural, social and economic impact, including urban development, that the title would have on the candidate city
  • the plans for monitoring and evaluating the impact of the title on the candidate city and for disseminating the results of the evaluation


B: European dimension ƒ

  • the scope and quality of activities promoting the cultural diversity of Europe, intercultural dialogue and greater mutual understanding between European citizens
  • the scope and quality of activities highlighting the common aspects of European cultures, heritage and history, as well as European integration and current European themes
  • ƒthe scope and quality of activities featuring European artists, cooperation with operators or cities in different countries, including, where appropriate, cities holding the title, and transnational partnerships
  • the strategy to attract the interest of a broad European and international public

The European dimension is at the heart of an ECOC’s programme. It is important to note that it is aimed at the citizens from the city but also from beyond: to increase their awareness of the variety of cultures in Europe as well as of the commonalities between these cultures. For cities it means connecting their local context with the European Capitals of Culture 2020 – 2033 Guide for cities preparing to bid December 2014 10 European framework. For the city’s cultural operators the European dimension results in new international partnerships. The European dimension ensures that an ECOC is an international programme and not exclusively a domestic event. The overall vision of the event must be European.

The final factor means the programme must be of sufficient quality to attract an international audience, in person or increasingly online. Candidates are asked for the capacity of their tourist offer and objectives for increased tourism.

Co-operation with the partner ECOC. There are two (and every third year, three) ECOCs. They are invited to work together. The range of projects varies and is developed between the cities. This is a critical element in the Europeanness of the ECOC programme. Many ECOCs also develop projects with past and future ECOCs.

C: Cultural and artistic content

  • ƒ a clear and coherent artistic vision and strategy for the cultural programme
    the involvement of local artists and cultural organisations in the conception and implementation of the cultural programme
  • the range and diversity of the activities proposed and their overall artistic quality
  • the capacity to combine local cultural heritage and traditional art forms with new, innovative and experimental cultural expressions

An ECOC is above all a forward-looking “cultural” project. The programme specifically developed for the year of the title must be of high artistic and cultural quality. This applies to participatory projects as well as more mainstream arts activities.

ECOCs normally translate their strategic vision into several streams; too many can be confusing for the audiences.

The bid-book should give enough information on proposed projects for the Panel to understand the consistency of the programme and its underlying artistic vision to the strategy and objectives. It should clearly indicate how the criteria will be met.

Note that the Panel and the European Commission will treat the bid-book programme as the de facto operational contract and use it as the basis during the monitoring phase.

Experience has shown that building a programme from the city’s own roots and cultural fabric can be a useful starting point. This comes with the proviso that many ECOCs also want to develop the cultural offer in the city. The programme should indicate the role of and development of the local artistic and creative community. Recent Panel reports have also sought information on the artistic digital strategy of an ECOC.

D: Capacity to deliver ƒ

the application has broad and strong political support and a sustainable commitment from the local, regional and national authorities
the candidate city has or will have an adequate and viable infrastructure to hold the title

A candidate will need to show that it has the capacity to deliver a complex and large programme such as an ECOC. Experience has shown there are several critical success factors: ƒ

  • A sustainable long-term cross-party political commitment to the project. Many ECOC cities have a change of political leadership in the 7 years between bidding and end of the ECOC year. It is essential that all political parties (at city, regional and national levels) treat an ECOC as a non-partisan effort on behalf of the city. Evaluations have consistently pointed out the problems caused by political instability. ƒ
  • A close working relationship between the ECOC management and the departments of the city administration. This is required not only during the preparatory phase and the year itself but to ensure a transition to the legacy benefits.
  • That the tourist and visitor capacity of the city can cope with the targets set out in the plan. This covers not only hotel capacity, transport links etc. but also the soft skill areas of visitor languages, quality of hospitality and welcome programmes (both in the public and private sectors) available in the city.
  • Many ECOC candidates put forward programmes of major infrastructure developments in the city. These are primarily of relevance if they directly impact on the ECOC programme.

E: Outreach ƒ

  • the involvement of the local population and civil society in the preparation of the application and the implementation of the action
  • the creation of new and sustainable opportunities for a wide range of citizens to attend or participate in cultural activities, in particular young people, volunteers and the marginalised and disadvantaged, including minorities, with special attention being given to persons with disabilities and the elderly as regards the accessibility of those activities
  • the overall strategy for audience development, and in particular the link with education and the participation of schools

The success of an ECOC, and certainly a key part of its legacy, can be measured by the active participation of its citizens. This needs to start at the preparatory phase. Recent ECOCs and candidates have held hundreds of meetings with their citizens seeking their views on the potential programme and overall vision. An active participation and not just participation as audiences.

Teams preparing bids have made a deliberate effort to engage those who do not normally participate in the culture life of a city, or run a parallel cultural sector. The aim is for engagement.

Each candidate will have its own particular emphasis and priorities; these will develop in the preparation and delivery of the ECOC. In many cases these engagements lead to changes in the outlook of the cultural operators in the city (an aspect of audience development).

ECOCs are increasingly using volunteers. It is important to distinguish between paid staff and interns and volunteers. A strong volunteer programme can add significantly to the citizens’ engagement with the ECOC and the city and with its legacy. It is now standard for ECOCs to run projects with schools, youth groups, universities and a wide range of civil society organisations.