And the winner is…Amsterdam takes EMA HQ

pharmafile | November 21, 2017 | News story | Manufacturing and Production, Medical Communications biotech, drugs, pharma, pharmaceutical 

In a decision that was likened to a penalty shoot-out, Amsterdam was announced as the winner of the race to become the new home of the EMA headquarters on a coin-toss decision.

The decision had been left as a choice between Amsterdam and Milan, with the former being picked out of the hat by Matti Maasikas, Estonian Deputy Minister for EU Affairs, who was chairing the meeting.

Amsterdam was considered one of the favourites for the agency from the start, alongside Milan, but Slovakian capital city, Bratislava, was also seen as having strong potential to get into the later rounds.

The reasoning behind this is the concerted effort of the EU to spread the locations of agencies around Europe, whilst also giving priority to nations that do not already possess an agency.

However, this did not transpire in the voting – with the Slovakian capital knocked out in the first round of voting; Bratislava received 15 points, placing it in fourth place behind Amsterdam and Copenhagen, on 20 points, and Milan on 25.

Such was the anger felt by Slovakia on missing out on the later stages of the vote, the nation subsequently boycotted the later rounds of voting. This led to the slightly farcical need to draw lots in order to choose between Amsterdam and Milan.

The second round of voting had led to the choice between the two nations, with Milan scoring 13 votes, Amsterdam nine votes and Copenhagen five votes. Eventually leading to a 13-13 tie between both nations, with coin-toss decision finding in favour of Amsterdam.

“We welcome today’s decision on the new location of EMA. Now that we finally know where our journey is taking us, we can take concrete actions for a successful move,” said EMA Executive Director Guido Rasi. “Amsterdam ticks many of our boxes […] It offers excellent connectivity and a building that can be shaped according to our needs. I am very grateful that the Member States took into account our requirements for business continuity and gave priority to the protection of public and animal health.

He continued, “Our internal surveys have shown that a large majority of EMA staff would be willing to move with the Agency to Amsterdam. However even in this case, our activities will be impacted and we need to plan for this now to avoid the creation of gaps in knowledge and expertise.”

Rasi is referencing a survey of its members of staff that, depending on the choice of nation, the agency was at risk of losing a number of employees if it relocated to an undesirable nation.

For instance, part of what may have swayed the vote away from Bratislava was the likelihood that it could retain only 30% of its staff if it moved to this city. By comparison, 65% and above were likely to continue working with the agency if it moved to either Amsterdam or Milan.

Looking ahead, Amsterdam will begin hosting the agency by March 2019, at the latest, as the UK should leave the EU by April 2019. This gives the agency and the Netherlands only a year and a half to make all the necessary arrangements to ensure a smooth transition.

Ben Hargreaves

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