Monday

28th May 2018

Magazine

EU agency campaigns: From gay rights to golf courses

  • Brochures of countries offering to host the European Medicines Agency. (Photo: Peter Teffer)

The bids published by 21 member states in the race to host the two London-based EU agencies - the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Banking Authority (EBA) - are very much reminiscent of the standard application letter.

The authors have clearly looked at the six criteria agreed to by EU government leaders last June, and made sure that their bid ticked most of the boxes.

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The European Commission is due to publish an assessment of the bids, based on these criteria, at the latest on Saturday (30 September).

If the bids were to be believed, virtually all of the European cities are well connected to all other capitals, can guarantee the agency's "business continuity", and offer healthcare and job opportunities for agency workers' spouses.

Each contestant also threw in some extras, beyond the minimum criteria, by spotlighting the unique qualities inherent in their city or region, in the hope of persuading Europe to give them one or both of the agency seats.

The features portrayed reveal parts of a city's self-image and give insight into what its officials think makes it competitive. Here are some examples.

Culture

(Photo: Gustav Klimt - Google Art Project, Public Domain)

The authors of the bids seem to think EU agency staff prize culture.

The Dutch, in their application, noted that Amsterdam hosts 207 Van Gogh paintings, whereas Frankfurt took a more general approach by boasting "over 4,000 paintings from the Middle Ages to the present". Vienna mentioned that it hosts "The Kiss" by artist Gustav Klimt, while Prague went as far as offering the staff of the EBA "unlimited free access" to dozens of museums.

Cycling

(Photo: Peter Teffer)

Accessibility is one of the six criteria, but many bids also emphasise the ease of getting around within the city.

Photos of bicycles, usually set in a sunny backdrop, were a popular feature in many of the applications. Germany spoke of Frankfurt's "excellent cycle paths", while Denmark noted that around "400 kilometres of bicycling paths connect the different areas of Copenhagen". The Dutch application - an 86-glossy page book weighing 400 grams - included seven photos prominently showing bicycles.

Sports

(Photo: Igor Ovsyannykov)

Some cities aren't afraid to get physical.

Copenhagen offered agency staff "plentiful parks, lakes and green spots - ideal for a football match or a relaxing picnic", while others like Paris and Barcelona point out how much cheaper a gym membership is compared to the UK.

The Bulgarian bid expected EMA staff to share a hobby with the US president: "If you are a golf enthusiast, you can enjoy the best golf courses in Eastern Europe such as the Thracian Cliffs and Pirin Golf," it said, noting that the nearest golf course is only 15 minutes away from the planned headquarters. It neglected to mention, however, that the permit granted to one of the golf courses by the Bulgarian government was given in violation of EU law.

Internet access

(Photo: rawpixel.com)

Today, being able to go online is almost a basic human right. Amsterdam, in its bid, claimed to offer "ultra-high-speed connectivity with an average peak load of over 3 Terabytes per second" and highlighted that they are a "frontrunner in mobile connectivity with a coverage of 98% for 4G network".

Safety

(Photo: Kwikwaju)

Many of the bids also emphasised public safety. Some even mention terrorism.

The website summarising Bucharest's bid - "one of the safest cities in Europe to live and work" - specifically highlighted Romania's low terrorist alert level ("Blue-Caution"). At a presentation of Romania's bid on Tuesday (26 September), deputy minister for European affairs Victor Negrescu said the reference had been included after EMA staff asked about security. "The employees asked us about whether or not Bucharest is a secure city," he told EUobserver.

Citing the US State Department, Poland's bid noted that the country has "no indigenous terrorism" and that "no known terrorist organisations have been identified to operate in Poland". "By all accounts, the city is a safe and appealing place to live and work compared to many other European capitals," it said of Warsaw.

Gay rights

(Photo: Just Call Me Mo)

Four of the bids - Athens, Malta, Milan, and Vienna - specifically mention that their candidate city is welcoming to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) community.

"Most Maltese are welcoming to all, and the gay community is thriving," one bid said, while another noted that Milan offers "free counselling, practical assistance, legal assistance and information on local LGBTQI associations".

Vienna's bid to host the EMA contained several paragraphs devoted to the issue, while the same city's bid to host the EBA did not. Austrian health minister Pamela Rendi-Wagner, who defended the EMA bid, explained to EUobserver that her colleagues from the ministry of finance maybe lack the same sensitivity to the LGBTIQ community she has.

"But the city is the same, I can guarantee it," she hastened to say.

This story was originally published in EUobserver's 2017 Regions & Cities Magazine.

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