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Which city will host the European Medicines Agency?

The competition to host the prestigious European Medicines Agency (EMA) is hotting up with Bratislava emerging as a dark horse

By: EBR - Posted: Wednesday, November 08, 2017

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Founded in 1995, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is responsible for the scientific evaluation, supervision and safety monitoring of medicines in the EU. The Agency is seen as being essential to the functioning of the single market for medicines in the EU.
Founded in 1995, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is responsible for the scientific evaluation, supervision and safety monitoring of medicines in the EU. The Agency is seen as being essential to the functioning of the single market for medicines in the EU.

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by Martin Banks

The European Council has received 19 offers to host the London-based agency which, along with the European Banking Authority, will need to be relocated in the context of the UK's withdrawal from the EU. The future locations need to be decided by common agreement of the EU27 member states.

Each of the bidding cities want to offer the authority a new home and the reason is simple: the presence of such a significant institution enhances the standing and prestige of the host location enormously. With a decision due on 20 November, the candidates are intensifying their efforts to sell the merits and details about their respective locations, for instance on infrastructure, transport links, working conditions and schools. 

Milan and Barcelona were considered the early favourites but the recent and ongoing move for independence in Catalonia and Lombardy have taken the edge off their credentials. Two other cities, Brussels and Copenhagen, are also thought to have a strong case but Brussels already hosts the EU headquarters while the Danish city hosts the European Environment Agency.

Some predict the contest will come down to a West v East battle and, according to some observers, Bratislava is a strong contender, not least because Slovakia does not yet host an EU agency. Slovakia joined the EU in 2004 and is the oldest member state that does not yet host an EU agency. At the same Slovakia is in the Eurozone and part of the Schengen area. Its supporters insist that it has impeccable credentials as a model EU member state and for reasons of European cohesion, it is now high time for this agency to be allocated to Slovakia.

"The time has come to give Bratislava the opportunity and responsibility to lead one of the most important EU-Agencies: the EMA," said Professor Max Gassman, Chairman of a leading physiological research Institute at the University of Zurich. "This upcoming, prosperous but still cost-efficient city in the heart of Europe has shown its potential during the last decade. It is eager to enhance medical science, and is ready to provide the best research conditions to bright scientists. Locating the EMA in Slovakia's capital will not only show that the EU indeed supports its newer members, but will also increase the attractiveness for up and coming scientists to settle down in the newly built science centres in Slovakia."

A senior source at the Slovakian Permanent Representation to the European Union told this website that innovation in health and medical technologies are Slovakia's top priorities for research and development. He said, "Our universities are geared to producing a pipeline of highly educated scientists, and we are keen to attract back to Slovakia some of our brightest and best medical talent."

As an example, he says that some 27 members of Slovak staff are currently working for the EMA which has a 900-strong workforce in London. He said that Bratislava is a "cost-effective" solution with custom built premises earmarked for the Agency that, he said, will be ready for the agency to move in "from day one."

Bratislava, said the well-placed source, is a central location in the heart of Europe with excellent accessibility by international road, air, river and rail. Slovak PM Robert Fico recently said it was a a "pro European island" in the region and a successful bid could bring real benefits in terms of job opportunities, both form Slovak personnel but new pharmaceutical companies.

Molly Scott-Cato, a senior UK Greens MEP, said, "It is not surprising that there is hot competition for the honour of hosting the EMA, with 19 cities jostling to be the new home for this major regulatory organisation and the boost the frequent visits by 36,000 EU regulators could bring to their city."Further comment comes from another British MEP, Socialist member Seb Dance, who said, "Naturally the other European Countries are now competing to see where it will relocate to, as it has always been considered the jewel in the crown of the European Agencies."

These are the cities proposed to host the EMA, as on 1 August 2017:
Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Athens (Greece), Barcelona (Spain), Bonn (Germany), Bratislava (Slovakia), Brussels (Belgium) Bucharest (Romania), Copenhagen (Denmark), Dublin (Ireland), Helsinki (Finland), Lille (France), Milan (Italy), Porto (Portugal),Sofia (Bulgaria), Stockholm (Sweden), Malta (Malta), Vienna (Austria),Warsaw (Poland), Zagreb (Croatia).

Founded in 1995, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is responsible for the scientific evaluation, supervision and safety monitoring of medicines in the EU. The Agency is seen as being essential to the functioning of the single market for medicines in the EU.

A European Commission spokesman said, "The applications will be assessed on the basis of six criteria including that the successful bid can guarantee that the agency will be operational when the UK leaves the EU, accessibility of the location, schools for the children of the staff and access to the labour market and health care for the employees' families."

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