The Brief: Eurovision Medicines Agency

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

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

The London-based EMA is, if you ignore British protests to the contrary, heading out of the UK after Brexit. The European Banking Authority is also likely to cross the Channel.

That has sparked a race among the remaining member states to scoop up the regulators, starting with the EMA.

But how will the EU be making its mind up? Presidents Tusk and Juncker have laid out the ground rules. Each country votes for its three favourite locations in a series of stages.

Naturally, a country cannot vote for itself and the first to snag 14 sets of three points gets the agency. If there is no winner in the first round, a second round and a third takes it.

For some Brussels diplomats it was clear where the source of the innovation had come from.

One senior official from an influential member state was heard to exclaim “This resembles Eurovision!”

At the campest song contest in the world, countries vote for their favourite songs, including but not limited to, Finnish heavy metal, Eastern European hip hop yodelling and endless saxophone solos.

Could Juncker and Tusk be Eurovision fans? Poland has never once won the contest but Luxembourg has punched above its weight and scooped the gong an incredible five times from 1961 to 1983.

That may sound like nerdy euro-trivia but to us it looks like incontrovertible proof that Juncker based the voting system on the contest.

Sadly, for the United Kingdom it is a case of nul points as the EU insists Britain will have no say over where the agencies end up.

Portugal, Sweden and Spain are among the frontrunners to pull a Conchita Wurst and scoop up the regulator.

Romania argues one should be based there because it is one of just three member states that don’t have an agency already.

But here’s an interesting idea from MEPs. Why not finally end the madness of the European Parliament’s travelling circus by sending the two agencies to Strasbourg in return for the city giving up its status as the institution’s second seat?

Of course the EU could really go the whole hog and open the race up to Israel and Australia. That may make no logical sense – but that never stopped Eurovision.


Günther Oettinger today presented the EU’s draft budget for 2018, his first as Budget Commissioner. Not surprisingly, Brexit means a great deal of certainty.

Emmanuel Macron met Vladimir Putin for the first time yesterday. In the gilded Versailles Palace the two leaders talked Syria and Ukraine, and the young Frenchman said exactly what he thought of the Russian media’s attempts to undermine his election campaign.

Dutch senators today ratified the Ukraine Association Agreement rejected by voters in a 2016 referendum. The EU said it needs more time to assess whether measures taken by Russia’s Gazprom are enough to bring it into line with EU competition law.

The G20’s think tanks agreed with Angela Merkel that Europe and the US are drifting apart and insisted on the importance of multilateralism. Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis disagreed.

He was not the only one. The UK also rebuked Merkel’s assertion that the EU could no longer rely on its allies. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Britain would continue to be a “strong partner”.

The UN’s former representative in Haiti told EURACTIV that international aid often does the country more harm than good. UNICEF has said a change of mentality is needed to end harmful child marriages in developing countries.

The Commission is about to shake up how member states charge road tolls – more than a dozen countries will have to overhaul their systems under the new rules. EURACTIV has a leaked document of the proposal, which is expected out tomorrow.

EU lawmakers yesterday agreed to fund free public Wi-Fi in areas with no internet access as part of a programme to bring the internet to all the EU’s “centres of public life” by 2020.

And the US embassy in Brussels is holding its 4 July celebrations on… 21 June. But why so early? Theories abound…

Samuel White contributed to this Brief.


Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans will be live on Facebook at 5pm tomorrow. Tune in here and maybe the Dutchman will field one of your questions on ‘Social Europe’.

Views are the author’s.

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