Dublin challenge not enough as Paris grabs EU bank watchdog

Ireland comes close to remarkable diplomatic coup in securing major EU authority

Dublin lost out to Paris (above) as the new HQ of the European Banking Authority. Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA

Dublin lost out to Paris as the new headquarters of the European Banking Authority when the two cities tied in the final round of voting at an EU meeting – and the drawing of lots went in favour of the French capital.

“Yet again losing to France,” Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney noted, in reference to France having secured the 2023 Rugby World Cup earlier this week ahead of Ireland and South Africa.

London is losing the headquarters of both the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority after Brexit.

There were dead heats in the voting by EU ministers on new locations for both agencies and the winners were selected by drawing lots from a large goldfish-style bowl.


Amsterdam beat Milan for the medicines agency and Paris won the race to take the banking authority after the favourite, Frankfurt, was knocked out in the second round.

Ireland came close to pulling off a remarkable diplomatic coup to secure the authority, and Mr Coveney paid warm tribute to all involved in the bid.


France’s winning European affairs minister, Nathalie Loiseau, said she “saluted Dublin’s fine candidacy”.

The close result was in part a tribute to the Irish diplomatic campaign, but it was also due in no small measure, sources said, to an act of Brexit solidarity from fellow EU member states.

The banking authority, with a staff of 167, is the umbrella regulator for the EU’s banking system. It was founded in 2011 as a beefed-up form of an earlier committee of European domestic financial supervisors.

London is losing the headquarters of both the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority (above) after Brexit. File photograph: Alice Dore/AFP/Getty Images

Its purpose is to attempt to enforce a “single rulebook” approach to overseeing banks across the EU.

To sweeten its bid, Ireland was offering €13.5 million in rental support to the agency and €1 million towards staff relocations.

Amsterdam beat competition from 18 cities for the medicines agency, ranging from fancied contenders such as Copenhagen and Bratislava to outsiders such as Bucharest and Sofia.

Eight cities were in the running for the banking authority.

The contests provoked the first public recriminations over Brexit among the EU27, after no eastern members made it beyond the first rounds.

Slovakia’s minister Toma Drucker said he abstained from the final votes on the medicines agency because no countries from his region had been successful in the opening stage.

“I think it’s not fair and it’s not a good message for the European inhabitants,” he said.


Italy’s Europe minister Sandro Gozi said Milan’s loss to Amsterdam in the tie-breaker was like losing the World Cup on the toss of a coin.

But for the victors, there was relief. “We are delighted, it was very tight, it was nerve-wracking to be honest,” said Dutch minister Halbe Zijlstra.

France’s success will be seen as a victory for Emmanuel Macron, although his minister, Ms Loiseau, expressed sadness that Lille had lost out in the race for the medicines agency. – Additional reporting Guardian

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth

Patrick Smyth is former Europe editor of The Irish Times