24th Mar 2018

Diplomats slam Commission over agencies relocation

  • "An evaluation is more than just stapling a number of papers together," one of the diplomats reportedly said of the Commission paper (Photo: clappstar)

Several diplomats have criticised the European Commission's assessment of the offers to host the London-based European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Banking Authority after Brexit, two EU sources told EUobserver.

At a so-called 'coreper' meeting of EU ambassadors in Brussels on Friday (6 October), the countries which are candidates to host one, or both, of the UK-based agencies, gave a three-minute presentation.

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Some diplomats expressed disappointment at the document the European Commission published last Saturday (30 September).

They had expected an assessment which would have included more differentiation between the bids, with one of the sources saying that the commission's paper was "not an assessment".

The document contained no ranking, and none of the 19 bids for EMA, or the eight bids for EBA, were disqualified as not fulfilling the criteria.

"An evaluation is more than just stapling a number of papers together," one of the diplomats reportedly said.

One source said the criticism mainly came from the Visegrad group, which consists of Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, and the Nordic EU members, which consist of Sweden, Finland, and Denmark.

The second contact said criticism came from "up north".

Another critique was that the commission's assessment had not verified the claims made in the countries' bids.

"Nothing has been checked," said one of the sources.

One example is a difference between the Austrian bid and the Slovak bid. Because Bratislava is quite near to Vienna's airport, the Slovaks had included the connectivity of Vienna's airport as an asset.

The two bids provided conflicting information - which made its way into the commission's report.

"The offer indicates the frequency of (direct) flights between Vienna and EU capitals, varying from seven flights to 85 flights per week," the commission wrote about Austria's bid.

"The offer indicates the frequency of direct flights to all capitals, ranging from 7 to 86 flights [per week] from Vienna Airport," it then wrote about Bratislava's bid.

The assessment had previously already received some public criticism, with Helsinki mayor Jan Vapaavuori, whose city is running to host the EMA, saying it "didn't bring anything essentially new to the race".

The first source also saw "the shadow of lobbying" already beginning to lurk over discussions, with member states in the race being careful not to ask too critical questions about the presentations, to avoid being seen as taking part in negative campaigning.

Spain reportedly gave its presentation "unperturbed" - without referring to the fact that its candidate city, Barcelona, is in the midst of a crisis following the illegal referendum on Catalan secession, and the harsh Spanish police violence that ensued.

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

Click here to access EUobserver's entire magazine collection.


The EU Agencies Race

In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies, exploring how their location matters and the benefits for cities and regions to host them.

EU agency bids assessment brings 'nothing new'

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, which were already public.

Commission sticks to its line on Barroso case

In a letter to a coalition of transparency NGOs, the EU executive has repeated that a meeting between its former boss - now working for Goldman Sachs - and the current vice president was "fully in line" with the rules.

Commission rejects ombudsman criticism over Barroso case

The European Commission repeated that it followed the rules when its former head joined Goldman Sachs - and suggested it will not follow the EU Ombudsman's demand to refer the case back to the ethics committee.

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