Politics get final say on post-Brexit agency seats

The European Medicines Agency offices in Canary Wharf, London. [Gordon Bell/Shutterstock]

Leaders of 27 EU member states – excluding the UK – agreed late on Thursday (22 June) on criteria to decide by November the new seats of the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority, which are currently based in London.

But the heads of state and government decided to prolong the procedure to give more room for political discussion among national governments.

As a result, the new locations of the two EU agencies after Britain exits the EU will be decided in a four step process.

Relocation of UK agencies to be decided by Eurovision-style vote

The post-Brexit relocation of the two London-based European agencies will be decided by a points-based vote which resembles the Eurovision song contest, EURACTIV has learned ahead of a summit tomorrow (22 June) where EU leaders will agree the criteria and the voting rules.

Member states can submit their candidate cities until 31 July.

In September, the European Commission will assess all the offers against the six criteria agreed by the General Affairs Council (GAC) on Tuesday (20 June).

These criteria are the availability of the location to ensure it starts functioning after Brexit in March 2019; the accessibility of the location; “adequate” schools for the children of the staff; “appropriate” access to the labour market, social security and healthcare for both children and spouses of staff; the business continuity of the agency (the time needed to ensure that the agency functions at full speed); and geographical distribution.

A substantial number of countries have already submitted candidates, in particular for the European Medicines Agency. A few countries, including Germany and France, are competing for both of them.

Frankfurt offers skills and 'better' beer to host EBA

Germany stepped up its charm offensive yesterday (26 April) in its bid to bring the European Banking Authority to Frankfurt. Not only is the city the financial hub of Europe but it has “better” beer.

The executive will analyse how the offers meet the criteria, but also specific issues that could improve the attractiveness for the EU countries. These are:

  • How member states’ plan for the relocation ensures that the agency remains operational;
  • Whether the premises will be rented or put at the disposal of the agency;
  • Whether the member state would pay the rent for a limited period or indefinitely;
  • Commitments on the maintenance of the building and potential extensions if needed;
  • Special conditions offered regarding costs and infrastructure;
  • Additional benefits to be granted to the agency or the staff, besides the privileges and immunities already in EU law.

Portuguese minister: Southern cities better placed to host medicines agency

Portugal is the latest member state to try and poach the UK-based European Medicines Agency after Brexit. In an interview with EURACTIV.com, Portugal’s junior minister for European affairs insisted having two EU agencies based in Lisbon already would not hurt its chances.

EU sources explained that the executive would not rank the different candidates and it is not expected to issue a short list.

A political discussion in the GAC will follow, chaired by Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, whose country is in charge of the rotating presidency of the EU.

He will inform leaders about the discussion at the European Council in October, although no decision will be taken by the EU 27 leaders.

In November, the GAC will vote on which cities should host the regulatory agencies. The first decision will be on the medicines agency.

The country selected for the European Medicines Agency cannot also be candidates to host the European Banking Authority.

There will be three rounds of votes, following the Eurovision model, although officials pointed out that this system was already used for the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL) based in Budapest.

The Brief: Eurovision Medicines Agency

Eurovision. The inspiration for some outrageous haircuts, insane fashion statements and, perhaps, the final destination of the European Medicines Agency.

“It is a kind of Eurovision song contest, we won twice,” commented Austrian Prime Minister Christian Kern, who said his country is vying for the medicines agency. “We know how it goes, and it could go well,” he added, while recalling that the Swedes came first even more times in the song contest.

In the first round, each country will have six votes. They will give three votes to their favourite candidate, two to their second preferred option, and one to the third.

If no candidate gets three points from a majority of member states (14), only the three candidates with the largest number of votes will pass on to the second round.

In the second round, member states will have only one vote. If no offer is supported by a majority, the two offers which receive the highest number of votes will go to the third round.

In the third round, member states will get again only one vote. The candidate with the largest number of votes will host the agency.