In a Brexit-related move, officials have decided where to relocate the European Medicines Agency, the EU's drug agency. The decision, plus the relocation of the EBA banking agency, will affect many UK-based employees.
The competition for two of the most prized spoils of Brexit came to a climax on Monday in Brussels when the remaining 27 EU states picked the new host city for the European Medicines Agency (EMA), While Amsterdam made the running for the EMA, Paris was eventually chosen to host the European Banking Authority (EBA) in a neck-and-neck race with Dublin.
Both the EMA and the EBA are currently based in London's Docklands business district but must move when Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019 because EU agencies are not allowed to be based outside of the union.
Amsterdam won the right to host the EU's drug agency after a vote that saw Milan on a par, with the final decision brought about by the drawing of lots, according to diplomatic sources. Germany's Bonn dropped out at an earlier stage of the voting procedure, following criticism that the EMA would have to move into "transitional rooms" in the beginning.
The Council of the European Union confirmed the choice, but gave no official account of the three rounds of vote which ended in disappointment for the Italian favorite.
The outcome was welcomed by European pharmaceutical bodies. They had warned that many of their staff might quit in the case of governments choosing a less attractive host city in the ex-communist East.
Pharma companies pleased
In all, 19 cities had originally bid for the prestige and economic boost that the arrival of the EMA's 900 staff and many offices for international pharmaceutical companies will bring.
There was a smaller batch of eight bidders for the EBA, the banking overseer with around 180 staff. The EBA is perhaps best known for its regular stress tests on banks in the wake of the global financial crisis.
Member states had pulled out all the stops to extol the merits of their candidate cities, producing glossy brochures and videos and offering a host of perks. Germany's Frankfurt, a leading EU financing center that is home to the European Central Bank (ECB), lost out in the race, because it could not guarantee "a rent-free environment" for the EBA.
The Irish government said it was willing to contribute €78 million ($92 million) over 10 years to cover costs, while Vienna promised a children's nursery, and Milan threw in access to a gym. Italy was even forced to deny news reports that it would increase its military contingents to the Baltic countries as a bargaining chip to promote Milan's candidacy.
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, delivered an evaluation of the applications in September based on a range of criteria from transport links, to job prospects for spouses and schools. Nonetheless, many had expected the voting to involve come-from-behind surprises and a mixture of backscratching and backstabbing.
hg,tr/uhe (AP, Reuters, AFP)