Saturday

20th Apr 2019

EU agency bids assessment brings 'nothing new'

The European Commission's assessment of offers to host two London-based EU agencies after Brexit, published over the weekend, are basically summaries of the already public bids.

The commission said it did not have time to look beyond the documents each of the contending member states sent to the Council of the EU, where national governments meet.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The EU's executive also relied on member states telling the full truth in their bids and "has therefore not undertaken any steps to verify the information provided in the offer".

"The Commission has not asked member states to clarify or complete their offers in order to put all of them on the same footing."

The result is 27 matrices - 19 for candidates to host the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and eight for those that offer a new home to the European Banking Authority (EBA).

For each of the factual part of six criteria, decided by EU leaders last June, the commission specified how those criteria were met.

The commission provided no ranking or shortlist, in accordance "with its mandate".

'Nothing new'

Helsinki mayor Jan Vapaavuori, whose city is running to host the EMA, said his city's strengths "were not really sufficiently identified in the assessment".

"The commission's assessment was very technical and didn't bring anything essentially new to the race," Vapaavuori told EUobserver in a written statement.

However, his country's minister of social affairs and health saw things differently.

"The commission's assessment summary confirms that Helsinki meets the key criteria and offers an excellent location for the European Medicines Agency," said minister Pirkko Mattila, "with a smile", according to a press release.

Romania's deputy minister for European affairs Victor Negrescu told EUobserver on Monday he believed the commission's "evaluation grid" of Romania is a positive one that will "strengthen" the eastern European country's bid to host EMA in Bucharest.

He said that, in addition to Romania not having an agency yet, the assessment showed "that our bid is complete and substantial and that, from a technical standpoint, we have been able to address all key criteria".

The commission's assessment meticulously identified every possible subset of criteria, like availability of wifi access. Every bid that did not specify the building has wifi access, would receive a sentence saying : "The offer does not provide information on the availability of wifi".

The Dutch bid, for example, did not include that information, or data on the "availability of an on-site archive rooms".

A spokesperson for the Dutch ministry of health retorted that the building is tailor-made and includes all necessary features.

"Our offer also doesn't say anything about toilets in the building, but obviously they'll have them," the spokesperson said.

Although the commission was not allowed to say which criteria were more important than others, it did offer some tips on how to achieve "business continuity".

It stressed the importance of accessibility, for example.

"In light of experience from other agencies where accessibility issues have caused practical difficulties as well as additional costs, the Commission advises not to overlook the importance of the availability of direct flights from and to EU capitals and the connections from airports to the location," it said.

The commission also said the "possibility for the agencies to maintain the current staff is also essential for business continuity".

EMA staff survey

However, it omitted from the assessment any reference to a recent press release about a worrying survey among EMA staff, which said that eight of the 19 cities would, if chosen, lead to "permanent damage to the system".

The survey, which was completed by 92 percent of the drugs agency's staff, showed many of them considered quitting after relocation from London.

It showed the popularity of 19 candidate countries, but in an anonymised fashion.

Even if the most popular candidate member state were chosen to host EMA, the potential staff loss would be 19 percent.

If the most unpopular country would be chosen, a whopping 94 percent said they could quit.

Nine of the nineteen candidates would lead to around half of the staff or more leaving, according to EMA's estimate.

According to the press release, this would lead to patients being "exposed to side effects - deaths - litigation".

Next steps

Because the assessment did not lead to any of the candidates being dropped, all of them are still in the race. At a summit later this month, EU leaders will discuss the assessment.

Then, next month, interior and EU affairs ministers will decide on the new location of EMA and EBA through a secret vote, where political dealings can play a role in the outcome.

Read more on EU agencies in EUobserver's 2017 Regions & Cities Magazine.

Click here to access EUobserver's entire magazine collection.

Magazine

London prepares to say goodbye to EU agencies

The relocation of the EMA and the EBA after Brexit will leave a hole that will need to be filled, but opinion is divided among local business people as to whether the agencies will be missed.

Bank agency shuns EU invitations

The EU's banking agency is not visiting cities that want to host the agency post-Brexit "to ensure objectivity". The medicines agency has no such qualms.

Interview

EU agencies criteria - a big step forward

Agencies expert Ellen Vos thinks "a lot of politics" will be involved in EU decision on new location for EMA and EBA, but accessibility should be a bigger factor.

EU medicines agency reveals new home preferences

Staff said they preferred to move to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Milan, or Vienna. More than 70% said they would quit if the agency moved to Athens, Bratislava, Bucharest, Helsinki, Malta, Sofia, Warsaw, or Zagreb.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us