Sunday

27th May 2018

Greece to split EU agency votes among southern friends

  • George Katrougalos (r) with Slovak minister for labour Jan Richter. Under Katrougalos' plan, Slovakia's bid to host EMA could not count on Greece's votes in the first round (Photo: Council of the European Union)

Greece has proposed to six other Mediterranean EU members that they should promise to vote for each other's bids to host the European Medicines Agency (EMA) after the UK has left the bloc.

Greek alternate minister of foreign affairs Georgios Katrougalos has suggested Cyprus, France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, and Spain support only each other's bids in the first round of voting.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Atrium of the building in Athens that Greece proposed as the new location for the European Medicines Agency (Photo: Peter Teffer)

All of these countries except Cyprus are bidding to host the EMA.

"It is not easy to coordinate, exactly because we are competitors," Katrougalos said in Athens in a group interview with EUobserver and three other media outlets.

"What we can do in the first round, is at least not to lose votes to other areas of Europe," he said.

In November, ministers will meet during the General Affairs Council in Brussels, to vote on a new location for the EMA, and the European Banking Authority (EBA), which is another London-based EU agency.

There will be up to three rounds of voting, until a candidate is supported by at least fourteen member states.

During the first round, member states have three votes to distribute, with the first vote counting for three points, the second two points, and the third one point.

Three candidates with the highest score will make it to the next round, unless there are more than three that received the highest score - then those will also go through.

Katrougalos' proposed southern alliance would only last for the first round, saying that if two Mediterranean candidates make it to the second round, "that would be a good sign".

"We are still waiting for the answer of the other countries," he said.

The former MEP dismissed any criticism of his suggested strategy, saying other countries are also doing it "without saying that in public".

Objective criteria

The alternate minister - the second-highest position in the Greek foreign ministry, after minister - said that the political deal among the southern EU countries would only apply to bids that have received a positive assessment by the European Commission.

"We are not going to support any country that does not pass the objective criteria of the commission," he said.

The commission is examining all bids and will present an assessment by the end of September, based on six criteria, which were agreed upon by EU government leaders last June.

The assessment "will be an objective analysis, rather than any form of subjective ranking or shortlist," a commission spokesman recently told EUobserver.

The vote itself will be secret, and political deal-making could still play a role.

"It would be utopian and not sincere to say there is not a political element to the final decision," said Katrougalos.

"We must use the appraisal of the commission which I think is going to be objective."

"I hope it will help us, as the politicians decide upon something tangible, but okay, to be frank, nobody can also exclude some interference of the political level."

He said that because of the "many-vote system" it is complicated to make clear-cut deals.

But there were still ways to haggle, the Greek politician said.

Exchanging votes

"Some countries have a candidacy for both agencies - we have just for one," he said.

"So we could exchange support for a country that is candidate for EBA, in exchange for their one point in our favour."

He also said it is "not out of the question" that a country could offer "some kind of future support to a candidacy to another international organisation," in exchange for support in the agency relocation vote.

"Everybody is going to have bilateral deals. We are going to have bilateral deals. This is not excluded. That's obvious."

Greece's bid to host EMA involves a former tobacco warehouse that has been unoccupied for over a decade, but still smells like new furniture.

The Greek state had received it from a tobacco company that was unable to pay off its debts, and the firm fully refurbished it in exchange for the debts being written off.

Not only good weather

Katrougalos thinks EMA staff would not mind leaving London for Athens.

"What I consider one of the strong points of our candidature is exactly that we ensure a very high quality of life to the staff of EMA," he said.

"I'm not speaking just of good weather, although I suppose that is also an asset. I'm speaking about very high-quality infrastructure regarding schools."

Hosting EMA would not only mean an influx of around 890 well-educated Europeans, but also an estimated 36,000 visitors a year, and a spur for Greece's pharmaceutical sector.

"We think that the relocation of EMA in Athens would signify a return to the European normality of Greece, and to help us boost our economy, which is now developing for the first time after all these black years of the crisis."

(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.

Relocation of EU agencies could save money

The EU agencies that will leave London after Brexit are likely have a financial windfall of several million euros a year, because of the way EU salaries are calculated.

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.

Interview

Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs

The EU should not share out military HQs for political reasons if it wants effective armed forces, Italy's former defence chief tells EUobserver.

Feature

Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ

Spanish special forces seized a boat from African 'pirates' as diplomats watched on Monday, in a drill marking Spain's bid to grab a top EU military mission from the UK.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  11. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  12. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations