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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Amsterdam pips Milan to be host city of EU medical agency

The Dutch city won the right to host the 900-staff strong European Medicines Agency

Amsterdam beat off competition from Milan, Copenhagen and Bratislava. Olaf Kraak
Amsterdam beat off competition from Milan, Copenhagen and Bratislava. Olaf Kraak

Amsterdam won the right to host the European Medicines Agency (EMA) when the EU drugs body leaves London after Brexit, beating off Milan in the final round of voting on Monday.

Milan had been the narrow favourite to land the body, which employs 900 staff. Both Italy and the Netherlands were strongly favoured by staff at the EMA, who had warned many might quit their jobs, possibly disrupting healthcare in Europe, if governments chose a less attractive host city, notably in ex-communist eastern Europe.

Sixteen other cities had bid for the prestige and economic boost that the arrival of the EMA and many offices for international pharmaceuticals companies will bring. Slovak capital Bratislava, the leading contender in ex-communist eastern Europe, came fourth in the first round of voting.

Ministers will go on to vote for one of eight cities hoping to host the smaller European Banking Authority (EBA), which sets rules used by the European Central Bank to carry out stress tests of the banking sector in the bloc.

Success for a wealthy Western state such as The Netherlands in securing the EMA may bolster the chances of Czech capital Prague in winning the EBA, diplomats said. Along with Warsaw, it has emphasised that there are relatively few EU agencies located in the countries which joined the bloc only after the Cold War.

Estonia’s EU minister Mattie Malarias, who was chairing the voting session, called the contest “a sad reminder of the concrete consequences of Brexit”. Britain is due to leave the EU in March 2019.

Despite fierce competition, the 27 EU states – minus Britain – are keen to avoid any protracted and bruising dispute over the matter as they see preserving unity as essential in facing Brexit, the biggest setback in the post-World War Two history of European integration.

“Whatever the outcome, the real winner of today’s vote is EU27. Organised and getting ready for Brexit,” EU summit chair Donald Tusk tweeted ahead of the vote.

Before Bratislava lost its bid, the Czech Republic’s EU minister, Ales Chimera, said Prague, a candidate to host the EBA, expected at least one of the two bodies to move to less-developed, ex-communist eastern Europe.

Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said: “Congratulations to Amsterdam on their successful bid. Hosting the EMA is a singular honour for any city and we will do all we can to support the agency’s smooth transition to its new home.

“Up to now the focus has inevitably been on the future location of the EMA. But today’s decision marks the moment when attention should switch to how patient safety and effective public health can be maintained during this complex transition and into the future.

“We now urge both the UK and the EU to put patients first and acknowledge that securing a comprehensive agreement to cooperate on medicines safety, regulation and supply is an urgent negotiating priority.”

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