European Commission assesses bids for the relocation of the European Medicines Agency

Jacqueline Bore

On Saturday, the European Commission (EC) published its assessment of the bids by 19 Member States to host the European Medicines Agency (EMA) when it relocates from London in March 2019.

As instructed by the Member States, the EC has been careful to avoid betraying any preference by producing a ranking or short list. The assessment is confined to a factual and objective analysis of the bids by reference to the six decision criteria determined by the Member States: premises, accessibility, education facilities for the children of staff, labour market, social security and medical care for partners of staff, business continuity and geographical spread. These criteria will be un-weighted when the Member States come to take their final decision by sequential rounds of voting in November 2017. Each Member State has the same number of votes to cast in each round and the scope for political horse trading within competing blocs is obvious.

Meanwhile, the EMA has made clear its own fears over the choice of its new home. With exquisite timing, on Wednesday the EMA published a staff survey indicating that it had identified four clusters of potential host cities with decreasing levels of attractiveness to its existing staff. The EMA anticipates problems in retaining highly skilled staff with an impact on its ability to carry out its functions wherever it may end up. If the Agency were to relocate to eight, unnamed, cities the EMA predicts that fewer than 30% of its staff will wish to move. “There will be a public health crisis” if one of these cities is the winner, they say. There is speculation that the objects of their concern may include the bid cities in Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Romania, thought also to be the targets of an open letter written on behalf of the staff to the Presidents of the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament and to Guido Rasi, the Executive Director of the EMA questioning the commitment of bid cities in certain unnamed Member States to the full recognition of the rights of LGBT staff and their partners.

In contrast, more than 65% of staff say they would stay if the Agency were to move to one of five cities. The EMA does not name these more favoured destinations but they are thought to include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Vienna, Copenhagen and Milan. Even if one of these were chosen, the EMA says, it would take 2-3 years before the work of the EMA would return to its London baseline.

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