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21st Feb 2019

Portugal not yet aboard 'Med alliance' on EU agencies

  • Porto has 'a concentration of many startups and enterprises that deal with the health cluster' (Photo: Luisa Azevedo)

Portugal has not yet decided if it will endorse Greece's proposal to have seven Mediterranean EU member states support each other in the vote for the relocation of two EU agencies after Brexit.

"We have to see. It is not yet decided," the Portuguese state secretary for EU affairs Ana Paula Zacarias told EUobserver on Wednesday (20 September).

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  • Portuguese health minister Adalberto Campos Fernandes (r) with his Spanish colleague Dolors Montserrat. Both are bidding to host the European Medicines Agency (Photo: Council of the European Union)

In November, Zacarias and her 26 colleagues from across Europe will vote on where the new seat should be of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Banking Authority (EBA).

The two agencies are currently based in London, and will have to find a new home because the UK is expected to leave the EU in March 2019.

Last week, Zacarias' Greek colleague George Katrougalos proposed that Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, and Spain should split the votes in the first round amongst themselves.

Except for Cyprus, all countries have submitted bids to host EMA.

"It is not easy to coordinate, exactly because we are competitors. … What we can do in the first round, is at least not to lose votes to other areas of Europe," Katrougalos said in Athens.

At the end of this month the European Commission will publish an assessment of the 27 bids – eight to host EBA and 19 to host EMA.

There will then be up to three rounds of voting at a ministerial meeting in Brussels in November, until a candidate is supported by at least fourteen member states.

Each country will have three votes.

The publication of the commission's assessment will be "a very important moment" in Portugal's process of determining who to vote for, said Zacarias, although she added that it was "already discussing with some partners".

Zacarias said that Katrougalos will visit Portugal later this week.

"We will be talking to him … We need to discuss [it], also in terms of the quality of the candidatures that will be presented. There is a political element in this of course, but there is also a quality element," she said.

Complex chess board

Portugal's minister of health, Adalberto Campos Fernandes, was also present at the interview.

He noted that the voting procedure will "not necessarily [be] a matter of regional options".

"We understand the position of our colleagues from Greece, but I think the chess table will be much more complex and more sophisticated than a matter of regions in Europe," said Campos Fernandes.

He added that "we won't exclude the possibility" of Portugal voting for northern European countries and vice versa.

Portugal has proposed to host EMA in Porto, its second city after Lisbon.

"Around the grand area of Porto we have a concentration of many startups and enterprises that deal with the health cluster," said Zacarias.

(Photo: Council of the European Union)

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

Click here to access EUobserver's entire magazine collection.

EU agency relocation race starts with 23 cities

Cities from 21 countries have applied to host the two London-based EU agencies, which will have to be relocated after Brexit, with Luxembourg throwing its hat in for the banking authority.

Italy brushes off southern alliance in EU agency race

Italy is promoting Milan as a new home for the London-based medicines agency. 'There are many talks. Everybody is talking to everybody else,' said the Italian state secretary of European affairs.

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