EU ministers will vote by secret ballot on the relocation of two EU agencies currently based in London at the General Affairs Council on 20 November. The ballot papers will then be destroyed and no record kept.
The 27 ministers – representing every EU member state bar the UK – will first choose from 19 candidate cities for the European Medicines Agency (EMA), followed by the eight hopefuls for the European Banking Authority (EBA). Both agencies have to be relocated because of Brexit.
A source close to the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU told journalists that the votes would be cast anonymously on paper and counted by a representative of the presidency.
Member states can abstain from the vote in any round and there is no quorum required for the final decision to be valid. The city that wins the medicines agency vote may not stand to host the banking agency.
The General Affairs Council’s decision will then be passed on to the European Parliament for ratification. This is likely to be just a rubber-stamping exercise but it is unclear what would happen in the event that the Parliament rejects the successful candidate.
Presidency sources said the ballot papers would be destroyed and no record would be kept of the cities that came in second or third place, or how member states voted.
Each agency will be allocated using an identical voting procedure of a maximum of three rounds. In the first round, each country must rank its top three choices. Three points will be given for a first choice, two points for second choice and one for third choice.
If one city wins an absolute majority of three-point votes (14 votes) it will be declared the winner. If not, the three cities with the most points pass into the second round, where each country has one vote.
Again, an absolute majority of 14 is needed to win. If this is not the case, the top two candidate cities will go head to head in a third-round run-off. In the event of a tie, the presidency will draw lots to decide the winner
Voting will begin on the afternoon of 20 November and the winner of each vote is expected to be announced by the early evening.