Friday 10 July 2020

Amsterdam wins race to host the European Medicines Agency

The EMA’s headquarters will be in Amsterdam’s Zuidas district. Photo: DutchNews.nl

Amsterdam has succeeded in its bid to host the European Medicines Agency when the organisation leaves London following Brexit.

European ministers in Brussels backed the Dutch offer after three rounds of voting on Monday evening. Both Amsterdam and Milan were level pegging with 13 votes each in the final round, leaving the EU’s current president Estonia to draw lots to decide the winner.

The Netherlands had lobbied hard to win the agency, but former finance minister Wouter Bos, who led the Dutch bid, had rated the Dutch chances of winning as ‘small’.

Foreign affairs minister Halbe Zijlstra, who was in Brussels for the voting, described the news as ‘fantastic’ in a Twitter message.

‘It is great for the Netherlands and great for Dutch citizens who can continue to count on good medicines and good control of those medicines,’ he said. ‘It shows that we can deal decisively with the effects of Brexit.’

New offices

A survey of agency staff in October showed that up to 70% would leave if the EMA went to an unpopular choice among the 19 cities competing to host the organisation.  Amsterdam, Barcelona and Vienna reportedly topped the list.

Amsterdam’s pitch to persuade the EMA to relocate to the Dutch capital included the promise of a new purpose-built office building in the city’s Zuidas business district.

The Dutch government said it would finance a €250m to €300m building for the EMA, which would then pay the market rate for the space. The Dutch government also offered an €18m sweetener and a full relocation package for the agency’s 900 staff.

The Netherlands already hosts two European institutions – Europol and Eurojust.

900 staff

The EMA is a decentralised agency of the EU, which began operations in 1995 and is responsible for the scientific evaluation, supervision and safety monitoring of medicines developed by pharmaceutical companies for use in the EU.

The agency has a workforce of some 900 people, mainly highly skilled, from all over Europe. Lille, Brussels, Copenhagen Stockholm, Dublin, Barcelona and Milan were among the other cities hoping to attract the EMA.

The Dutch promo film supporting the bid included mention of queen Maxima’s wardrobe, fish and chips and children saying hello in English.

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