Monday 22 July 2019

Schooling key as EMA workers opt for The Hague, Noord-Holland

The EMA’s temporary offices in Amsterdam. Photo: EMA

Fewer than a quarter of the European Medicines Agency staff to so far make the move to the Netherlands have chosen to settle in Amsterdam, the Parool reported at the weekend.

The EU agency is leaving London because of Brexit and the paper said just 12 of the first 67 members of staff to move have opted to live in the capital. Five have moved to nearby Amstelveen.

By contrast, 15 are moving to The Hague and 43 of the 67 pioneers are spread out over Noord-Holland province, with seven settling in Alkmaar, the paper said.

Of the 76 children involved in the move so far, 40 have found school places in The Hague and Bergen, both of which are home to a European school. Amsterdam does not have an EU-funded international school, forcing parents to turn to the expensive private sector or to look to other cities.

A further 600 members of staff and 470 children are expected to make the move over the coming year, the paper said. The Parool bases its claim on a city council report.

Amsterdam has set up a special project team to help EMA workers relocate, find somewhere to live and suitable schooling for their children. The city is spending €1m on the project, the health ministry a further €2.5m, the paper said.

The EMA will first move to a temporary building in Amsterdam’s Sloterdijk office district, before moving to a new complex in Amsterdam’s Zuidas business district by the end of the year.

One in four

In August the agency said some 30% of staff will not make the move from London to Amsterdam, but this has now been scaled back to 24%. The lower number is due to the support on offer to those employees who want to move and ‘positive feedback’ from those who have already set up home, the EMA told the Pharmaceutical Journal.

The EMA originally said it expected around 80% of staff of its 900 staff would switch to the Dutch capital.

Housing

The difficulty in finding an affordable place to live in Amsterdam and EU salary rules which state employees should be paid according to the cost of living in the country where they work, may also have had an impact, as well as issues with schools.

In December, the agency’s Brexit lead Noël Wathion told Politico the agency is  covering the cost of a two-night trip to Amsterdam for staff and their partners — plus a guided tour of neighbourhoods, so they can find out more about living in the city.

Wathion said the bulk of staff are expected to relocate in January and February. However, the agency has also adapted its flexible working policies to allow people to move later during 2019, if, for example children need to sit school exams.

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