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BREXIT: Cyprus drops out of EMA bid

01 August, 2017

 * 19 countries apply to host medicine’s agency; 8 chase EBA *

Two EU agencies employing more than 1,000 people in London will move to the continent, with 19 members states vying for the European Medicines Agency, eight for the European Banking Authority, and of these six countries are bidding for both.


 
On Monday, Cyprus let it be known that it was dropping out of the race for the EMA, with reasons cited by European news sources being that the government never showed serious interest to host the agency, did not provide for indicative facilities to be ready by March 2019, did not mention language courses for existing staff and had “no EU leadership of human or veterinary drug committees or workshops in 2016.”
The news portal Politico added that “the Cypriot High Commission [in London] visited the EMA in February, and the EMA confirmed in April that the country had declared an interest in hosting the agency. However, Cyprus has not given any more details on its bid. There’s no sign of a PR campaign and days before the July 31 deadline, the country appeared uncertain it would stay in the competition.”
Despite UK attempts to keep them after the Brexit, the British government said this week that the location of the two agencies would be decided during Brexit talks, according to the BBC.
But a European Commission spokesman has insisted they should move to the EU.
“The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union and it will have no say in the location of EU agencies,” said Margaritis Schinas.
The EMA has 897 staff, while the EBA employs 159 people, and the UK’s decision to leave the EU has prompted interest from several EU countries in hosting the two highly specialised organisations.
The UK department run by Brexit Secretary David Davis appeared to hold out hope on Monday that the two agencies might remain in London. In a statement it said no decisions had yet been taken and that the two sides would discuss how best to continue co-operating on bank and medicine regulation.
But Schinas said relocating was a consequence of Brexit. “A matter for the negotiations will be the duty for the United Kingdom to facilitate the transfer of these agencies, helping to ease the practical and financial burden for the experts working there who will have to relocate to another city in the EU.”
A total of 19 countries are vying to host the EMA after Brexit — six of which are also bidding to win the European Banking Authority, the Council of the European Union said on Tuesday.
The candidates bidding for the EMA, one of Brexit’s biggest prizes for the continent, are Amsterdam (the Netherlands), Athens (Greece), Barcelona (Spain), Bonn (Germany), Bratislava (Slovakia), Brussels (Belgium), Bucharest (Romania), Copenhagen (Denmark), Dublin (Ireland), Helsinki (Finland), Lille (France), Milan (Italy), Porto (Portugal), Sofia (Bulgaria), Stockholm (Sweden), Valletta (Malta), Vienna (Austria), Warsaw (Poland), Zagreb (Croatia).
There are eight candidates bidding for the EBA: Brussels (Belgium), Dublin (Ireland), Frankfurt (Germany), Paris (France), Prague (Czech Republic), Luxembourg City (Luxembourg), Vienna (Austria), Warsaw (Poland).
The European Commission will now launch its own assessment of every application to judge whether they have fulfilled the relocation criteria as set out by the Council and Commission in June.
The Commission will then present its findings in October to the Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union.
An obvious first step for any country wishing to host, house, educate and provide for hundreds of EMA staff and their families would be a trip to the agency. Employees have no say where they will end up, but meeting the EMA’s executive is an opportunity to find out what it needs to run and make the shift seamless.
Many bidding countries have proposed tailor-made offices for the agency. Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Slovakia have offered large, custom developments. Most plan to start construction by year’s end and finish by March 2019 — an ambitious timeline.
The Dutch bid includes a transitional building option, in case construction isn’t complete when Brexit talks finish, said Kajsa Ollongren, deputy mayor of Amsterdam.
Barcelona has offered the iconic Torre Glòries, behind the Sagrada Familia temple, to host the EMA. Malta, while offering “several buildings in prime locations” for an immediate transition, would also build customised premises with room for expansion, said Anis Cassar, press officer at the Maltese Permanent Representation to the EU.
France, however, is confident there will be no transition interruptions. Health Minister Agnes Buzyn’s spokesperson said its bid will “guarantee” the EMA will be up and running in its new Lille home by March 30, 2019.
Buzyn has also visited the EMA twice — once in June, again in July — to find out staff needs, especially for the design of its proposed “Biotope” building, conceived specifically for the EMA with health and wellbeing at the core of the design.
Italy has touted the 32-story Pirelli Tower in northeast Milan. While iconic and available, the tower was completed in 1958 and may seem like a step back in time for EMA staffers accustomed to their very new, state-of-the-art home in London.
Austria has eight available buildings in Vienna, said Philipp Tillich, Austrian health attaché in Brussels. Seven are in the city center.
Greece, which just officially announced its candidacy July 21, has caught up: It has an official website and has suggested the former building of a Greek tobacco company as the new EMA home.
Germany and Portugal are hedging their bets; they’ve offered a selection of existing and proposed new developments. It’s unclear who would make the final call on a new office.