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10th Apr 2020

EU medicines agency reveals new home preferences

  • If Vienna was chosen as a new home for the EU medicines agency, or Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, or Milan, at least two-thirds of its staff would be willing to move (Photo: Roderick Eime)

Most of the staff of the London-based European Medicines Agency (EMA) would move with the agency if its new host city was Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Milan, or Vienna, according to the results of a staff survey made public on Tuesday (3 October).

If one of these cities were chosen as the new seat of EMA, over 65 percent of staff said they would stay.

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  • The European Medicines Agency published its own, colour-coded assessment of relocation bids (Photo: European Medicines Agency)

By contrast, EMA would lose over 70 percent of its staff if national governments decided to relocate the EMA to Athens, Bratislava, Bucharest, Helsinki, Malta, Sofia, Warsaw, or Zagreb – at least, that is what staff are saying now.

The results were published together with an assessment by EMA of the nineteen bids to host the agency, which has to leave London because of Brexit.

The EMA, set up in 1995, supervises and administers all medicines across the EU, and has around 600 staff.

The publication comes just days after the European Commission published its assessment of the bids. EMA's review served as input to the commission's assessment.

The differences are immediately apparent: the commission's assessment was based only on the information provided by member states in their official bid documents, because of "the limited time available and in order to treat all offers fairly".

The EMA's assessment was based also on additional publicly available information.

Another contrast: the commission has tried to remain as neutral as possible and produced an assessment that is in essence a summary of the bids. It contained no ranking.

The EMA's review however used four different colours to show the level of criteria meeting the requirements: dark green, light green, light orange and dark orange.

That allows readers of the review to have an easier way to compare offers.

For example, the review said the accessibility of the locations offered in Bratislava, Lille, Malta, Sofia, and Zagreb, did not meet EMA requirements. Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, Milan, and Vienna had the best accessibility.

Most candidate cities had adequate education facilities for EMA staff's children, with Milan and Vienna receiving the dark green stamp. But Lille, Malta, and Sofia only "partially" met the education requirements.

EMA also deemed Bonn, Brussels, Bucharest, Dublin, Milan, Sofia, and Warsaw as not offering enough "appropriate access to the labour market" for staff's partners.

It also said a "tolerant and open socio-cultural environment" – by which EMA meant whether same-sex registered partnerships were available under national law – was lacking in Bratislava, Bucharest, Sofia, and Warsaw.

Bratislava, Bucharest, Helsinki, and Warsaw did not offer appropriate access to medical care and social security for the staff's children and partners, EMA said.

EMA also reviewed the lay-out of the proposed premises, and said Amsterdam, Bratislava, Brussels, Copenhagen, Lille, and Milan offered the best ones.

The best facilities in the building were deemed to be in the offers from Barcelona, Bratislava, Brussels, and Copenhagen.

Finally, EMA also reviewed the relocation plan.

It said the following cities had plans which fully meet EMA's requirements and ensure that the agency can be operational on time: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bonn, and Milan.

The relocation plans, which include timeframe and required constructions, offered for relocation to Athens, Bucharest, Malta, Porto, Sofia, Stockholm, Warsaw, and Zagreb could not ensure business continuity, EMA assessed.

Dublin's three different relocation plans were also ranked differently, with one of them in the category of uncertain business continuity.

Earlier on Tuesday, a European Commission spokesman told this website that EMA had classified its input as confidential.

In a press release, EMA said it published its review after "isolated pieces of information" were published in the press.

The publication of the review was done "in order to complete the picture and set the record straight".

The European Banking Authority, a second London-based EU agency that needs a new home, also has assessed the eight offers to host it. However, it has not published its assessment.

The relocation will be discussed at a summit later this month, and decided by EU and interior ministers next month. Formally, the EMA has no say over its relocation.

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

Click here to access EUobserver's entire magazine collection.

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.

Romania: We 'deserve' an EU agency

Deputy minister for European affairs highlights that Romania is 'the biggest country not having an agency', as one of the arguments to vote for Bucharest to host the medicines agency.

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'Think of the patients!' cry EU agency contenders

Because of Brexit, the EMA has to leave London. Some health ministers lobbying to host it have made an emotional appeal, warning that patient safety could be at risk.

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