Three in 10 EMA staff won't move to Amsterdam, agency scales back activities

Some 30% European Medicines Agency staff will not make the move from London to Amsterdam, forcing the organisation to temporarily scale back and suspend certain activities. 'It is clear that the agency will lose more staff than originally anticipated,' the EMA said in a statement. 'Overall EMA expects a staff loss of about 30% with a high degree of uncertainty about mid-term staff retention.' Some staff are already quitting the agency to look for other jobs ahead of the EMA's move from London to the Dutch capital after Brexit in March next year. The agency will have to move twice because the new, purpose built offices in Amsterdam's Zuidas business district will not be completed until November. The EMA originally said it expected around 80% of staff of its 900 staff would make the move to Amsterdam. That number has been cut because 135 people on short-term contracts will not be able to make the move, due to employment rules in the Netherlands. The Netherlands has tough rules on temporary employment, which prevent people being given successive short-term contracts. The Parool suggested 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, with staff unwilling to accept pay cuts of up to 24%. In addition the difficulty of finding a place to live in Amsterdam is a potential obstacle and EMA employees are being encouraged to look at Haarlem, The Hague, Alkmaar and Rotterdam as potential alternatives. Schools Nor does Amsterdam have an EU funded international school, forcing parents to turn to the expensive private sector or to look to other cities. Amsterdam has sent a team of relocation experts to London to help organise the move and the agency itself has started a recruitment programme to attract new staff. The agency issued a list of its activities which will be impacted by the shortage of staff. These include a scale-back of collaboration at an international level, to focus on product-related requests, as well as a reduction of its involvement in other programmes and projects.    More >

Dutch inspector visits refugee rescue ship

A Dutch government-appointed inspector will travel to a refugee rescue ship in Malta to check whether it is sticking to its search and rescue limits. The Sea Watch 3 ship belongs to a German aid operation, picking up migrants who get into difficulties when crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe. It is sailing under the Dutch flag, and so The Netherlands is responsible for its actions. But the ship has been grounded since Monday by authorities in Malta, who suspect that it is not sticking to its mandate to save drowning people but is – reports the NOS – operating as an ‘undercover ferry’. The Dutch inspection will check whether it is operating in accordance with its certification and equipment before taking further steps. Concerns Junior immigration minister Mark Harbers said in a response to parliamentary questions earlier in the week that the cabinet ‘supports lifesaving activities’ but ‘shares the concerns of the Italian government that NGO ships are not always properly equipped to carry out rescue operations’ and about ‘the side effects of the presence of NGO vessels close to the Libyan coast’. Malta has also prohibited the Sea Watch operation from using an aircraft to search for migrant boats. In June, Mark Rutte called for EU leaders to end a war of words on migration after Italy had refused permission for a ship carrying 629 migrants to land and Spain granted them asylum instead. European leaders made a new deal to handle African migrants last week. Witnesses A spokesman for Sea Watch said that the Dutch-registered ship had a major, five-year independent inspection two weeks ago and noted that its plane was grounded this week. 'This has nothing to do with technical or regulatory issues,' he told 'It is about a political campaign against civil sea rescue. 'It is the policy of the EU to let people drown at their borders and pay the cost to bring people [back] to Africa, and they don't want to have witnesses.'  More >

Rutte urges 'clarity' from May on Brexit

Mark Rutte has urged his British counterpart Theresa May to provide more clarity on Brexit with less than nine months to go until the UK leaves the European Union. A day after meeting Donald Trump in Washington, the prime minister invited May for talks at the Catshuis in The Hague to discuss the progress of negotiations between Britain and the EU. The Brexit settlement is supposed to be completed by March next year but many key issues, including the border with the Republic of Ireland and reciprocal rights for EU and UK citizens living abroad, still have to be decided. Trade with the UK is estimated to be worth €22.7 billion a year to the Netherlands, equivalent to 3.1% of GDP, junior minister for trade Mona Keijzer said in a letter to parliament last month, making the Dutch one of Britain's biggest European trading partners. 'We urgently need clarity about every aspect of the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom and we're working very hard to achieve that,' Rutte said. May, who is due to meet German chancellor Angela Merkel later this week, did not reveal details of her talks with Rutte, but said: 'It is important as we look at the United Kingdom leaving the European Union that we are able to discuss between us how we can ensure that we are able to have a future relationship that reflects the close ties that we already have.'  More >

Dutch groups criticise EU migration deal

Refugee organisation Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland said on Friday it is disappointed with the results of the EU summit in Brussels, at which leaders discussed ways to solve the issue of African migration. 'It is extremely disappointing that the EU is not capable of finding solutions which contribute to the protection of refugees,' the organisation said. Europe is shifting the responsibility for offering help to people in trouble to others and keeping its borders closed, the group said. 'Nor is there any solution to the situation of refugees in the Mediterranean Sea.' The organisation also referred to the 'inhuman conditions' in which refugees are living in Italy and Greece, which, it said, did not come up for discussion. 'Instead, EU ministers want to lock up refugees in new, closed centres in southern Europe.' Much remains unclear about the agreement struck by ministers at a 10 hour meeting. Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte told reporters after the meeting that it was not simple to come to a deal. ‘And I am not going to say we have solved the issue,’ he said. ‘But we have taken a big step forward and after eight years in Brussels, I know Europe means doing things step by step.’  More >